Brexit: a breakthrough before the break?

After the summit meeting in Brussels British PM Boris Johnson on Friday once again threatened to go through with a hard Brexit. Further talks are pointless if the EU doesn't fundamentally change its stance, he said. In the meantime EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier will once again meet with his British counterpart David Frost on Monday in London. Journalists still believe there could be a last-minute deal.

Open/close all quotes (DE) /

There is still scope for compromise

The EU must now show the will to reach an agreement, demands

“The refusal of the EU's North Sea states to cut fishing quotas in British waters from 1 January is as narrow-minded as London's demand to be allowed to enter the EU territory designated as the single market at its own discretion. So there is still room for negotiation on both sides. And since the EU Commission has already worked out an agreement text that is several hundred pages long, there is also a substantial basis for negotiation. On this basis, a compromise can still be forged in November if both sides show the will to do so.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

A deal is the most likely outcome

The Irish Times is also optimistic that a deal will be reached:

“The Downing Street team in charge of the negotiations, including Frost, are inexperienced and prone to serious lapses of judgment, as in the treaty-breaking Internal Market Bill. And Barnier faces a difficult challenge in balancing the need for compromise with the determination of EU leaders not to give Britain an unfair competitive advantage. But beyond the rhetoric and the operatic displays in Downing Street, the two sides are closer on the substance than ever before and a deal remains the most likely outcome.”

Mediafax (RO) /

No-deal tactic will apply at least until Nov 3

London is dawdling in talks with the EU because it's negotiating a trade agreement with the US at the same time, news portal Mediafax suspects:

“An alliance between the US and Britain would be problematic for the EU. ... If Donald Trump wins the November elections, Boris Johnson will have a strong ally and Europe will have big problems almost everywhere. But if Joe Biden wins the election, America will start a normalisation process with Europe, while England will be forced to accept many of the EU's demands. ... Until then: no deal!”

Die Presse (AT) /

A painful lesson for the British

Once again an unsatisfactory solution to the question of how to structure relations between the UK and the EU is emerging, Die Presse observes:

“Brexit will either be hard or brutal, the British and the Europeans have the choice between a hopelessly slimmed-down trade pact or the complete breaking off (one hopes only temporary) of orderly relations at the end of the year. ... This all has nothing to do with fate and inevitability and everything to do with the negative energy of the Westminster Jacobins. Their Brexit is an all-consuming black hole. ... On New Year's Day the British will experience for the first time just what it means to belong to a third country. Unfortunately, the lesson will be painful.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Johnson will lose either way

The British prime minister's negotiating position is worsening by the day, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung points out:

“Boris Johnson is facing pressure from all sides: any agreement must also be sold to the hardliners in his party, with whom his relationship has deteriorated. ... And if an agreement is reached it will be more difficult for him to pass the buck on to the EU if Brexit does bring tangible economic losses. A no-deal, on the other hand, would mean that new negotiations with the EU would have to start again in 2021 to keep the damage to a minimum. The Brexit woes would continue - and free trade agreements, for example with the US, would be pushed into the distant future. None of these are good prospects for the beleaguered prime minister.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Scottish separatists see their chance

More Scots than ever before are in favour of independence, according to a recent survey. This is mainly because London is heading for a hard Brexit which the majority of Scots had rejected, writes The Spectator:

“It cannot be repeated too frequently that Brexit is the sole reason this argument has substance right now. No Brexit, no material change in circumstances that might justify revisiting the national question while the embers of 2014 still glow. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP would still campaign for independence but they wouldn't have any good argument for demanding a second referendum. Well, however disagreeable you may think it, they have a decent one now.”

Les Echos (FR) /

A brutal rupture would exacerbate the crisis

A no-deal scenario must be avoided at all costs, the heads of the employers' associations of France, Germany and Italy warn in an appeal published by Les Echos:

“Our companies are spending all of their energy coping with the health, social and economic consequences of the Covid-19 crisis. ... They are committed to revitalising our economies while overcoming the inevitable challenges in terms of environmental protection and digitalisation. A brutal break between the EU and Britain would only exacerbate the situation and lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs - and companies - in our countries. ... We solemnly call on the negotiators to do everything in their power to reach a comprehensive and ambitious agreement in the interest of Europe and Britain, which can come into force on January 1.”

Helsingin Sanomat (FI) /

Heading for a rude awakening

Many British are indulging in wishful thinking, Helsingin Sanomat observes:

“Although a large section of the British population thinks the post-Brexit era has already begun, this is not the case. We are in the eleven-month transition phase - and it will soon be over. The EU hopes to conclude a new partnership agreement with Britain before then. ... A no-deal Brexit would be very problematic for many companies. ... For the British economy the withdrawal is a catastrophe, with or without a deal, because no agreement can deliver anything that compares to staying in the EU's single market. This is the best phase in the Brexit. The British have secured their exit but are not yet facing the consequences.”