There are exactly four months left until the end of the transition period after the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union (Brexit) due to end on December 31 this year. By this time, the deal must be agreed upon, signed, ratified and come into force. The document should at least define the principles of trade, movement of individuals, goods, services and capital between the European market and the UK.
But to date, the parties' talks regarding their future relations are clearly stalling, to put it mildly, or have even reached an impasse. At that, London and Brussels blame each other for this. For instance, the European Union points to the United Kingdom's wish to take crux of the biscuit, i.e. leave only what it benefits from, without fulfilling its obligations or complying with the previous restrictions any longer.
The British side's approach is a major irritant to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier. Information from Brussels suggests his having no clear idea of what the British want, just like it was at the start of the talks four years ago. Following the 7th round of negotiations, London's position forced Barnier to say that the EU and Britain would probably fail to conclude a treaty on post-Brexit relations. "Today at this stage, an agreement between the UK and the EU seems unlikely. I simply do not understand why we are wasting valuable time on these negotiations given such an attitude of the British side," Euronews quotes Barnier as saying.
In particular, he accused the British delegation of making numerous wrong-headed demands. As an example Barnier noted that Britain vies for maintained access to the European transport market, refusing to comply with the EU transport regulations. Moreover, Brussels' chief negotiator explained that major disagreement persists in the fields of fishing, police activities, mobility and transport, access to social security. According to Barnier, "we are going backwards more than forward."
In its turn, London is extremely dissatisfied with the European Union, which is trying to show itself as a superior in the negotiations and is therefore entitled, as Brussels itself believes, to dictate its terms to the British. Boris Johnson's government does not like this approach, wishing to negotiate on an equal footing. In part, this stance of the EU is explainable: it is not really profitable for it to get a competitor who, in contempt of its rules, will subsidize key businesses, change labor and migration conditions, and introduce its own eco-standards. Besides, EU countries, especially France, are afraid of a further rapprochement between the UK and the US amid the European Union's weakening.
It may seem strange, but many along the Thames, particularly in the British Parliament, are comfortable with the possible negotiating process failure, and the need for the parties to trade under WTO rules, as Australia does, for one. By the way, London has repeatedly stated it is the example of Canberra they may follow in trade relations with the EU. However, given such a scenario, many ordinary residents of the British Isles may lose their jobs, which will certainly erode the economy of the United Kingdom as a whole, alongside the current coronavirus-caused challenges. In particular, the country's economy shrank by 20.4% between April and June to become the worst indicator since the day statistics was started in 1955.
But at the moment, this paradox is of little concern to anyone in London, and it still continues to push its agenda as regards negotiations with Brussels, hazarding all the consequences. At the same time, if the EU and Britain do not agree on future trade relations, the introduction of tariffs will undermine the process of economic recovery and the already evident recession may appear deeper and longer.
Let us recall that the people of the United Kingdom voted for Brexit in a June 2016 referendum, and following three and a half years of negotiations with Brussels, at midnight on January 31 this year the country finally left the European Union, while remaining part of the European Customs Union and the single market until December 31. Moreover, the British authorities have officially notified the EU that they are not going to extend the transition period. It is worth noting that after the 2016 referendum, the number of Britons who moved to the EU countries increased by 30%. Moreover, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has recently sounded a note of warning that after Brexit, Scotland and Northern Ireland will get a craving for leaving the United Kingdom, which is fraught with a complete collapse of the country. And this is beyond a joke!
We note finally that the EU-UK talks will continue on September 7-11 in London, and they will not necessarily yield any tangible results. Thus, Britain faces difficult times ahead.