The German presidency yesterday sent a letter to the European Parliament announcing that the member countries are preparing to provisionally apply the Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom to avoid a legal vacuum as of midnight on December 31, pending its parliamentary ratification, which cannot take place before January 18. The permanent representatives of the member countries met yesterday to analyze the result of the negotiations, which is a 1,246-page text that must now be translated and thoroughly analyzed by national governments.
The European negotiator was also present at the meeting of the ambassadors in Coreper, Michel barnier, that after having managed to close this difficult process, he will be able to retire quietly within a month, when he has already reached the age of 70, most of which invested as a public servant of his country, France, and the European Union. The spokesman for the German presidency revealed on social media that at the meeting “EU ambassadors praised Michel Barnier and the EU negotiating team for their resilience and firmness under intense pressure during the Brexit negotiation with the United Kingdom”
Barnier summed up the result of his work as a “reasonable” agreement, in which he recalled that the fact that the community partners have maintained seamless unity in the face of British positions has had a lot to do with it. The countries have now asked for some time to analyze all the details and have also reminded the Commission that it must launch the fund of 5,000 million foreseen in the community budgets to help the sectors that are most affected by the exit of the British from the EU. Although it is a provisional application, the different governments of the member countries must unanimously approve its content, for which a new meeting of Coreper will be necessary in the coming days. For now there is no evidence that there are positions incompatible with what has been agreed, so in principle it is expected to be a more or less automatic procedure. French President Emmanuel Macron, who could have been feared to have put problems with the result, praised the progress of the negotiations.
The discussions on fisheries were the biggest obstacle to the agreement and were overcome thanks to the direct intervention of the president of the Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen who had several direct telephone conversations with the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Von der Leyen has assured Europeans that “competition in the single market will remain fair” as “EU rules and standards will be respected and we have effective tools to react if fair competition is distorted and affects our trade” . At the same time it is ensured that ‘we will continue to operate with the UK in all areas of mutual concern, such as climate change, energy, security and transport’. Barnier told the ambassadors yesterday that, as if it were a divorce, the two parties lose out in the separation, but in his work he has worked to “limit the damage.”
The chaos that has occurred in British customs in recent days due to the closure of communications with Europe as a preventive measure due to the appearance of a variant of the Covid-19 virus has probably served to illustrate what could happen if there had not been a treaty regulating the rules between the two former partners .
The final stretch of the negotiations was a laborious process that lasted until very late on the 23rd and all morning on Christmas Eve. The agreement was finally closed at 2:44 p.m. on the 24th, Brussels time, shortly before the President of the Commission and the European negotiator appeared at a virtual press conference to formally announce it.
According to the revelations of the negotiating process that are becoming known, in the last hours of the process, given the imminence of the Christmas festivities and the increase in mistrust on both sides, it was really feared that the agreement would be impossible and that would produce the dreaded no-deal Brexit. Michel Barnier had warned his team that ‘in my experience, with the UK you have to be careful until the last minute».
The European Union thought that the United Kingdom would consent to a further extension of the transition period to avoid a chaotic situation, but Johnson was always inflexible on this point, which separated him from his predecessors, especially from Theresa May, which was the author of the negotiation of the separation treaty.
Now it’s all about Boris Johnson’s efforts to convince the most radical Brexiters within his own party not to accuse him of being a traitor. In the last hours, its services were finalizing a report according to which the British positions would have prevailed in 43% of the points, 40% would have been mutual commitments and the EU would have obtained advantages in the remaining 17%. Of course, this refers to the objectives that had been set from London, which does not mean that they are advantages for your country in the new relationship with Europe.
When this process started four years ago, a leading German representative in European politics said that ‘if the UK leaves the EU it cannot in any way be a success for the British’. It seems that the balance is very clear in this sense.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.