by N. Peter Kramer
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sees a no-deal Brexit rapidly approaching. ‘We are prepared to go the extra mile. I would like to go to Berlin, Paris, Brussels again, but he chance of a hard Brexit is now high,’ he said yesterday night. It was his first statement after his dinner with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The two agreed on Wednesday evening that the Brexit knot must be tied no later than Sunday. But positions are so far apart that only a fundamental concession by one of the parties can lead to a breakthrough. ‘We are missing a person like Jean-Claude Juncker on our side’, an EU official said. Suggesting that the former President of the Commission would have been more ‘skilful’ in a situation like this than the unwavering Von der Leyen and Barnier, the EU ‘negotiator’.
The atmosphere was not made any better by the emergency measures presented by the European Commission yesterday. A transition period of six months is proposed during which the freight traffic (also in the air) crossing the Channel vice versa can still continue. But… the UK would have to respect the EU rules of the level playing field during that transition period. Also for fishing rights the Commission wants a regime of mutual access until at least the end of 2021. The Commission has shown, once more, incomprehension for the British position: the UK is now an independent sovereign state with its own rules and laws.
The Daily Mail catalogued the Commission proposals under the heading ‘extortion’. ‘Brussels’ Brexit Blackmail’ was the headline on the website. The Brexit-minded newspapers are steadily increasing the pressure on Boris Johnson not to give in to the EU demands.