Brexit negotiations head to a last-minute deal

By Sofia Martinez

Belgium is currently the center point for more than being added to the UK’s list of high-risk quarantine countries, but it is a place that masks are now compulsory in public places, as it becomes increasingly difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel when the government teams who are pressing to create a bridge to combat the considerable differences and to deliver a trade deal between the EU and the UK.

Face to face meeting took place this week but dispute the advantage of lip reading and body language it was evident that the negotiations were heading nowhere, understanding where the opponent was coming from and the thinking process behind the discussions proved that the latest round of discussions between the two chief negotiators were without either side making any progress. Facing each other with hard and uncomfortable messages to deliver in a manner that seemed to be friendly but as ever, the EU and UK are not seeing eye-to-eye.

Michel Barnier said “the British side’s ongoing disregard for the terms of the political declaration both sides agreed last year.” What he evidently found harder to digest was the UK’s insistence on cherry-picking access to the single market without wanting to play by EU rules. Mr Barnier expressed that he understood “Brexit means Brexit”. He cited the British demand for wide-ranging access for UK lorries travelling across Europe but the refusal to agree to EU rules on, for example, drivers’ rest times.

David Frost, who reports directly to the prime minister, issued his own public statement, rather than press conference. His frustration was fueled by what he describes as the EU’s insistence that the UK accept current EU rules on state aid and fisheries, before any wider deal can be committed to paper.

These two areas remain the stumbling blocks in the negotiation process, but it’s the fear that British firms get an unfair advantage from a so-called ‘level playing field’ for industries across member states that the is EU worried about. 

Access for EU vessels to British waters is another stumbling block, although fishing is an industry which forms a relatively small part of the economy but has a much larger symbolic and cultural significance. Despite the public declarations of frustration, both sides still say a deal can be reached but it must happen by October to allow time for ratification by the European Parliament.

Downing Street has ruled out an extension to this year’s transition period. So, if no deal is done, the UK would trade with the EU on World Trade Organization terms for the first time in decades. This is a major concern and in addition to the way the country has been effected with the economic crisis of the coronavirus it has given a new perspective on how governments may want to support struggling business. 

September sees the talks return to London, without the negotiating teams from Belgium and France that will not have to quarantine for two weeks. Both sides are determined to a last-minute power-play to create the deal, the EU and UK are holding out for the best possible arrangement in the new socially-distanced, face-covered world that Covid-19 has created.