Stalled Brexit negotiations

On Friday the fourth round of negotiations on future relations between the UK and the EU ended without substantial progress, as the chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost announced afterwards. Time is running out as an agreement must be negotiated by 31 October at the latest. Commentators wonder whether London has any real interest in a deal.

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Financial Times (GB) /

Brussels has got London wrong

The British government does not want an agreement at all costs, columnist Wolfgang Münchau points out in the Financial Times:

“When the EU agreed its negotiating mandate, it did so on the assumption that the UK needs the deal more desperately than the EU, and that Mr Johnson would most likely fold. Some Remain advocates in the UK should ask themselves to what extent they played a role in cementing those expectations in Brussels and in other EU member states' national capitals. It is one thing for a trade negotiator to try to seek an economic advantage. It is quite another to try to impose your own regulations on the other side, as the EU is seeking to do. I am not criticising the EU's negotiating mandate on moral grounds. Let the stronger side win. My problem is simply that it may be based on a misjudgment.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Corona as the perfect excuse for Johnson

Whereas the coronavirus crisis initially harmed the British prime minister's credibility in terms of crisis management, it now offers him a chance to cut a good figure, Le Temps observes:

“Boris Johnson makes no secret of his hostility to extending Brexit. And he now knows that no matter what the outcome of the negotiations, he is not in any great danger. Before the pandemic hit the UK three months ago, he had to carefully evaluate the potential damage a hard Brexit would do to businesses in his country. It is now clear to everyone that the health crisis will be followed by an economic crisis. This will allow the PM to hide the consequences of his strategy vis-à-vis the EU. Who will be able to say in a year's time what exactly pulled this or that indicator into the red?”

El País (ES) /

Johnson wants hard Brexit

The quarantine of several months gives Boris Johnson a good excuse to apply for an extension without losing face, El País says, but fears he won't seize the opportunity:

“Trying to negotiate in four months an agreement which would normally take years to forge is not just unrealistic. ... The British negotiator David Frost has already admitted that the negotiation time has been reduced by the pandemic and that the "limit" of what can be achieved through virtual meetings has been reached. If his government doesn't use this as an excuse to break its promise and ask for an extension it will show definitively that in fact it prefers a chaotic exit.”