Brexit: keys to understanding what London is negotiating with Europe

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They seek to reach an agreement for the future commercial relationship, starting on December 31. But the negotiations are stalled.

The UK and Europe are trying to agree on a future relationship post Brexit, that is, an eventual special relationship between the European Union and the kingdom when it is no longer part of the 27 countries of the bloc.

Those negotiations follow EU Exit Agreement which was signed in October, after years of intense discussions.

The negotiation on the future relationship with the 27 European partners takes months blocked for issues such as the regulation of state aid in the United Kingdom after Brexit and the distribution of fishing quotas in British waters.

London now demands that a trade deal with Europe be signed no later than October 15Otherwise, the United Kingdom will not have a special commercial relationship with the old continent, and it will be the WTO rules that govern the relations between both parties.

Before the start of this Tuesday in London eighth round of contacts between both sides of the English Channel, the British Prime Minister, the conservative Boris Johnson, put pressure on the meeting by assuring that his pulse will not tremble to execute a no-deal exit if a pact is not closed before October 15.

The final severance of ties with the EU will occur on December 31st, although both London and Brussels have indicated that October is in practice the time limit to begin to ratify a pact or to accelerate the preparations for an abrupt exit.

But in addition to the pressure from Johnson to add a date as an ultimatum, it also emerged this Monday that the British government plans to present this Wednesday a law that would change the commitments on Brexit already signed with Europe in October, such as those related to the Northern Irish border.

The boundary between Ireland and Northern Ireland will be the last border between the kingdom and the EU when Britain leaves, but it is key that that border is not physically closed due to the importance to peace of keeping that border open.

The agreements signed in October seek to establish a protocol so that tensions do not erupt on the Northern Irish border. That protocol is now in danger of being unilaterally amended by London, with new legislation.

The “Financial Times” newspaper detailed that the legislation, which will be published on Wednesday, deals with “dodge” customs obligations which the United Kingdom acquired to keep the border between the two Ireland open.

London wants to clarify the commitment to apply the European regulation on state aid in relation to the trade of goods in Northern Ireland, as well as the clause that requires Northern Irish companies to fill out export forms when sending goods to the island of Great Britain, according to the FT.

The Executive is “taking limited and reasonable steps to clarify specific elements of the protocol for Northern Ireland” and “remove any ambiguity,” a Johnson spokesman said.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned that respecting the agreement signed in October is a precondition for maintaining trust between the two parties.

Along the same lines, the president of the European Commission (EC), Ursula von der Leyen, declared that she trusts that the United Kingdom will implement what has been agreed so far, a commitment that she considers “a prerequisite for any future association”.

From Belfast, the main deputy minister of the autonomous government of shared power, the republican Michelle O’Neill, affirmed that “any threat of pushback in the Irish protocol would represent a terrible betrayal“.

“Invalidating the exit agreement would be very damaging to the relationship” between London and Brussels, said David Henig, UK director of the European Center for International Political Economy (ECIPE).


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