by N. Peter Kramer
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will travel to Brussels to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a last-ditch effort to salvage a post-Brexit trade deal. It comes after a 90-minute phone call between the leaders failed to produce a breakthrough. In a joint statement, they said the conditions for a deal were ‘not there’. ‘Significant differences’ remained on fishing, business competition rules and governance of any deal, they added. After the phone call it looks like a deal may not possible.
There has been a sense of frustration building for months now at the circular nature of talks. Does it make sense sitting down together again to repeat the same arguments. The EU behaves as an old-fashioned colonial power: they want to keep free entrance to the British fishing waters, the UK has to stick to the EU competition rules and to the EU rules on workers’ rights, environmental regulations and state aid. But the UK says the goal of Brexit is to break free from following common rules and reassert national sovereignty.
On the EU side political intervention at the highest level has long been needed, to give a nod and a wink to the static chief ‘negotiator’ Barnier to agree compromises. In a face-to-face meeting, the two leaders might finally find agreement, give the decisive push to get there, or maybe jointly admit that the deal cannot be done.
This would be another failure of Angela Merkel’s Council presidency, which many in the EU had hoped would resolve the big conflicts, from migration to the budget to Brexit.