Brexit: turbot and scallops but no deal yet

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson travelled to Brussels on Wednesday to negotiate a Brexit deal with EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen in person. A joint dinner including scallops and turbot, however, failed to produce a result. If the UK and EU don't reach an agreement by December 31, they risk a no-deal Brexit. But the media have not given up all hope of a deal yet.

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El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Wind now blowing from a different direction

Johnson is now in a more flexible mood than the hardliners of his party, El Periódico de Catalunya believes:

“Although the bulk of British exports are destined for Europe, the predominant attitude [among certain sections of the Conservative Party] is that the fewer restrictions on the country's export market, the better Britain's chances are of attracting new non-European customers under better conditions. Donald Trump fanned such hopes by promising a major free trade agreement with the UK. But Joe Biden's upcoming move into the White House heralds a change of direction that the Eurosceptics on the islands have not yet registered. But Johnson has, and perhaps that's why he travelled to Brussels.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

The English deserve more than mockery

The Irish Times warns against an all too one-sided view of the British, especially in Ireland:

“As a country England has long been a haven for our loved ones needing to escape social shaming or seeking a decent life. Now as the rift deepens and our fear and anger rise, we have a choice to make. Will we take the narrative that views us as the bitter, oppressed victims of British imperialism? Or the narrative that sees this country as a strong, proud member of a European Union with decent, peaceful, pluralist values at the core, one capable of magnanimity and generosity to the hugely diverse English public who were misled and manipulated?”

Financial Times (GB) /

Don't gloat

British Remainers should not succumb to the temptation to gloat over the negative consequences of Brexit which they predicted, the Financial Times advises:

“Cheered on by the Brexit-backing media, the Conservatives will easily paint valid criticism as the defeatism of the people who want Britain to fail. And maddening as it may be, for a while this will work. Most voters do not want Brexit to be a catastrophe. They have to live here and want the UK to thrive. They know things will be difficult at first but they will give the government time to iron out the creases. Their patience is not infinite: if they conclude that Brexit is turning into a disaster they will not need telling who is to blame.”

The Guardian (GB) /

We Remainers were too narrow-minded

The Remainers poisoned the Brexit process by refusing to acknowledge defeat in the referendum, EU-friendly columnist Owen Jones acknowledges in The Guardian:

“Every possible option other than a second referendum - or even stopping Brexit altogether without consulting the British people - was toxified. ... From the very beginning, there should have been an acceptance that our side - remain - was defeated in a democratic election. ... We should have settled and fought for the closest possible relationship with the EU. But anything other than stopping Brexit was written off as both disastrous for the country and morally untenable. And so here we are, on the verge of the hardest possible Brexit, with all the terrible consequences that entails.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

After the deadline is before the deadline

The Brexit negotiations will keep the Europeans occupied for a long time to come, Ilta-Sanomat predicts:

“Even if sliding into a no-deal state would make the damage caused by Brexit worse than absolutely necessary, contact would not be broken off completely or permanently. It would just mark the beginning of a new phase in the Brexit process, in which everyone licks their wounds and looks for ways to limit the damage. ... For that reason a last-minute agreement would be just another intermediate phase after which new negotiations would resume to improve relations and repair the damage.”

Les Echos (FR) /

Always the same tactics

Delaying tactics are at the core of Britain's strategy, Les Echos comments:

“For the past four and a half years London's tactics have always been the same: to push the negotiations to the limit so as to divide the European camp. ... Then to try to obtain last-minute agreements that would allow Britain to regain full sovereignty while retaining privileged access to the European single market, on which it is heavily dependent. Contradicting demands that run counter to the terms of the 27. For them, it is inconceivable to offer commercial advantages without a guarantee of fair competition. The European Union has set limits. It must stand by them until the end, despite the spectre of a 'no deal'.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

We will all pay for Brussels' stubborness

A failure of the negotiations would have serious consequences especially for Great Britain, but not only, The Irish Independent warns:

“Those pushing for a no-deal on the EU side may prove in due course to have been skilled negotiators. It could be that Britain will suffer a few weeks and months of shortages and protest and political upheaval in early 2021 when the transition period comes to an end, forcing them back to the negotiating table, suitably humbled. But it is undoubtedly a gamble, and it's one that is being knowingly made at the moment on our behalf with all our jobs and livelihoods. We'd all suffer in the short term with the imposition of new barriers to trade. Only the scale of the damage would be uncertain.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

This way it could work

Deutschlandfunk has concrete proposals for an agreement:

“Is it fair that British fishermen are not even allowed to catch two-fifths of the fish in their own waters? The EU should be flexible on this. The British demand for a neutral dispute settlement is also understandable. It was precisely for the hardliners on the island that the European Court of Justice was always a red rag. On the other hand, the EU has every right to insist on fair competition, because a Britain of social and environmental dumping and uncontrolled state support for companies would indeed distort competition. On this point Prime Minister Boris Johnson must make concessions - and he will.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Muddling through is Europe's strength

De Volkskrant columnist Bert Wagendorp wonders why it is always only in the last minute that a solution to crises in Europe is found:

“I would find it totally understandable if an enraged Angela Merkel were to throw Hungary and Poland out of the EU with a hard German kick - the dictatorial pack from Warsaw and Budapest wants the billions in subsidies but doesn't care about Europe's rule of law. Or if EU negotiator Barnier were to end the negotiations with the British and wish them good luck with their no-deal Brexit: off you go, well done, fantastic, good luck in the queue at customs, lads. But that's just not how it works. In the last tenth of a second before the deadline they strike a deal. I'd rather things were different for the sake of clarity. But muddling through is Europe's strength. One crisis solved, on to the next one.”

Die Presse (AT) /

As a third country, London has fishing sovereignty

Die Presse calls on the EU to meet the UK half way in the fishing sector, which is minor in economic terms but constitutes one of the final stumbling blocks on the path to a deal:

“For many years - longer than Britain has been a member of the EU - fishermen from the continent have been allowed to fish off the British coast. Now London wants to regain sovereignty over fish in its territorial waters. A symbolic but in the final analysis understandable position. ... Britain is now a third country, and must be treated as such. However, it also follows from this that the former EU partners can no longer claim the right to fish in British territorial waters. They must pay the price and accept the quotas London is willing to grant. It simply can't be that Paris, first and foremost, is once again bickering with London over trifles.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Regulate free trade and arbitration

But on the key issues, Brussels must not give in to London, the Irish Independent urges:

“EU demands that the UK uphold standards on state aid, environment and labour law, all of which are a big cost on business. The UK is too big and too near to the EU to take a chance on these things. Continued free trade access to the EU – precious to Ireland for continued prosperity – cannot be lightly given without guarantees. Another EU demand, for a workable disputes resolution mechanism, is also vital when you consider how London is threatening to unilaterally change Northern Ireland's special trade status.”

Seznam Zprávy (CZ) /

The nightmare is approaching

Seznam Zprávy no longer believes the Europeans and the British will reach a deal:

“The negotiators still insist that it's possible, although they probably no longer believe it themselves. ... Nevertheless, answers to certain questions are emerging. For example, as of January 1, Europeans will no longer be able to decide from one day to the next to pack their bags and move to the British Isles. To do this they will need a job offer with a minimum annual income of 25,500 pounds. According to some studies, almost two-thirds of EU workers in the UK are below this salary threshold. Among other things, this will affect the British care sector, which relies heavily on Europeans.”