Sunday, September 26

Johnson asks Brussels for gestures to help sell deal to London


Correspondent in Brussels

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A reasonable agreement on future relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union is to reachbut the British Prime Minister, Boris JohnsonIt could have trouble getting it approved by its own supporters, among whom are a significant proportion of fervent supporters of total separation from Europe. For this reason, the thesis that Johnson himself uses this situation, even in the telephone call on Thursday night, to try to convince the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, that you agree to make significant concessions, especially on the very sensitive chapter of fishing, to help you maintain the support of your followers for the outcome of the negotiations. The British press assumes that from Brussels they believe that the British political class is beginning to weigh vertigo at the possible option of a no-deal and its terrible consequences. The absence of concrete preparations for a no-deal scenario by the UK has increased nervousness in London.

Negotiations are in its inevitable final stretch and all the actors assume that there must be an outcome before tomorrow, Sunday night, when it will be necessary to announce either that there is already an agreement or assume that on January 1 all legal connections between the UK and the continent are terminated . This is what the European negotiator Michel Barnier defined yesterday as “the moment of truth.”

Division among conservatives

Faced with this situation, opinions within Johnson’s Conservative Party are divided between those who believe that it is urgent to reach a pact and those who urge the prime minister not to give in to pressure, not even now that the country is looking to the abyss of economic disconnection. Among the latter, Ivannia Salazar reports from London, is the deputy John Baron, who a couple of days ago declared to the local press that it would be much better for the “premier” to leave the negotiating table than to sign something that he later regrets. “It is better that there is no agreement than there is a bad agreement,” he said, in line with what other supporters of a hard Brexit think, both inside and outside the conservatives. These most radical fears that Johnson is capable of loosen up at the last minute and allowing what until now had been red lines to be crossed, is what makes Brussels think that the fate of a possible pact will end up being the same as the withdrawal agreement, which required three votes in Parliament and a change of Government.

However, right now in the community institutions there is no other objective than to reach that agreement in the few hours that remain so that it could be formally approved and ratified so that uncertainty be avoided of the separation without network from next January 1. Yesterday morning, Barnier appeared before the deputies in what may have been his last speech of this type. In January he will turn 70 years old, so on the 31st of that month the Commission is obliged to retire him according to its own rules. If there is no agreement, you will probably not be able to continue in the negotiating position, and if there is, you will also lose your job due to lack of activity. After a very long and fruitful career as a politician and civil servant both in France and in the European Union, Barnier looked tired and aged yesterday, probably due in part to the intensity of work on this final stretch.

The UK is due out on 1 January the internal market and the customs union, in a matter of hours it is decided if it is going to be with or without an agreement, “he recalled when explaining that whatever the most radicals say from London, what is being negotiated is” the broadest free trade agreement that we have ever offered to nobody”.

The obstacles follow

However, obstacles remain where they were, especially in the fisheries chapter. ‘The UK wants to have the power to expel the European fleet from its sovereign waters at any time from the start. We say that in this case we want to have the power to respond with other measures how to prevent the sale on the European market of fishery products from British boats. It would be unfair – and I personally think so – for the entire industry to have a transitional period to adapt to the new situation, except for fishermen.

The nuance that he believes “personally” in the relevance of this claim came to the story because it is known that France, his own country, is the one that has threatened with vetoing the agreement if the fishermen issue is not resolved sooner, although in recent weeks President Emmanuel Macron has refrained from even talking to Johnson on the phone, despite the latter having tried several times.

In short, while the negotiators continue to turn to the same issues that they have crumbled in recent months, looking for nuances and last-minute lace, we can only remember the first words that Barnier transmitted when he was appointed and that he spoke in English, a language which then, in 2016, did not dominate with the comfort with which it does now: “The clock is ticking” he said, something like “time flies.” Have passed more than four years between one thing and another and the final drama of Brexit will be decided in the last two days. On Sunday we will know if that referendum was an unfortunate mistake or a major catastrophe, especially for the United Kingdom.

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