Key Brexit meeting concludes ‘more momentum’ needed to break deadlock

The two sides had a video conference on Monday afternoon which appears to have amounted to little more than a stock-taking exercise.
European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen take part in the High-level video conference on Brexit with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Photo credit: European Council Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

15 Jun 2020

After the high-level conference, the Commission and Parliament issued a joint statement which said the EU and UK had agreed “that new momentum was required.”

It went on, “They [the UK and EU] supported the plans agreed by the Chief Negotiators to intensify the talks in July and to create the most conducive conditions for concluding and ratifying a deal before the end of 2020. This should include, if possible, finding an early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement.”

“The parties underlined their intention to work hard to deliver a relationship, which would work in the interests of the citizens of the Union and of the UK. They also confirmed their commitment to the full and timely implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

The UK government did not immediately react to the outcome of the meeting.


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The video conference involved UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Parliament’s President David Sassoli and his Council counterpart Charles Michel.

The aim was to break the current impasse between the two sides over issues such as fisheries and the level playing field on trade.

MEP Kati Piri, a member of Parliament’s UK Coordination Group (UKCG), said, “We want the deal already agreed upon by the EU and the UK in the Political Declaration. This means a comprehensive agreement ensuring fair competition with clear social, environmental and labour protections, and structural cooperation on matters related to foreign and security policy.”

The Dutch Socialist added, “The UK expects to keep the benefits of a Member State by cherry picking the advantages of the single market. But after four rounds of negotiations, it remains unwilling to agree on any obligations including clear level playing field provisions and governance. This is simply not realistic.”

“If the UK is serious about getting a deal - and I hope they are - it needs to make not just steps but leaps forward. It is time for the UK government to deliver on its own promises. An ambitious and comprehensive future partnership is in the best interests of both EU and UK citizens.”

"They [the UK and EU] supported the plans agreed by the Chief Negotiators to intensify the talks in July and to create the most conducive conditions for concluding and ratifying a deal before the end of 2020" Commission and Parliament joint statement

The conference comes with just six months left to negotiate, sign and seal an agreement between the UK and EU on their future relationship.

It signals the start of a key few days where Brexit again takes centre stage. Parliament will debate the topic on Wednesday with a resolution being adopted on Thursday. Brexit and EU-UK relations will also be on the agenda of a summit of EU leaders on 19 June.

German EPP member David McAllister, who chairs the UKCG, also told this website: “We are at a crucial stage in the negotiations between the EU and UK. I welcome that the high-level meeting took place and it was an opportunity to intensify the negotiations in order to make progress.”

Dutch ECR deputy Derk Jan Eppink, another UKCG member, called for compromise and said, “So far, the format of the negotiations has run into its limits.”

German Greens member Terry Reintke told The Parliament Magazine that “all sides need to continue being cooperative.”

She added, “This is especially given the tight schedule, time is running for reaching an overall trade agreement - including fisheries. However, both parties have still time until the end of June to agree to a postponement. This option has to be taken if no substantial progress is made.”

"The UK expects to keep the benefits of a Member State by cherry picking the advantages of the single market. But after four rounds of negotiations, it remains unwilling to agree on any obligations including clear level playing field provisions and governance. This is simply not realistic" Kati Piri MEP

“The outcome of the fisheries talks are also highly significant concerning environmental protection and global warming. The future fisheries management will have an utterly important impact on the shared ecosystem and fish stocks of the respective sea basins. We cannot risk to lose climate change mitigation opportunities through a failure of the negotiations that would not protect carbon sinks.”

“To avoid a disastrous outcome for both sides, it has to be done what is needed in these more than special circumstances: Extend the deadline and take the time to negotiate a good deal for both sides. A no-deal scenario will put all citizens and their rights at high risk.”

Polish EPP member Danuta Hubner, a member of Parliament’s former Brexit steering group, noted, “Of course, the clock is ticking and the end October, when final joint legal text should be on the table, looks like tomorrow. Progress in the negotiations has been dramatically limited. What is good is that this has the focus of all of us, both on the continent but also our British friends.”

“These EU UK negotiations are about citizens, we must never forget that. They should not pay for Brexit.”

Speaking on Sunday, the World Trade Organisation DG Roberto Azevedo warned that finding a deal by the end of the year will be “very, very, very difficult.”

WTO tariffs in some sectors, such as automobiles, would be higher than if the UK did a deal with the EU, he said.

"We are at a crucial stage in the negotiations between the EU and UK. I welcome that the high-level meeting took place and it was an opportunity to intensify the negotiations in order to make progress" David McAllister, UK Coordination Group Chair

The UK will have to resort to WTO terms if no deal is found by the end of December.

Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, said, “A deal between the EU and UK remains possible. But neither side is likely to compromise on its current negotiating position until later in the year, when the cost of failure will become significantly more tangible.”

“The route towards an agreeable compromise exists. But the EU and UK are unlikely to commit to finding it until later in the year, when the economic, and political, consequences of the alternative become significantly more tangible.”

The UK government rejects EU demands on competition regulations and fishing because, it says, they fail to respect the UK's post Brexit national sovereignty, but the EU insists that without agreement on fishing and competition rules, there will be no deal.

On Friday, the UK rejected any chance of it asking for an extension to the transition period beyond 31 December.

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