Fading hope

Tuesday, 2020-09-15 16:13:02
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Puzzle with printed EU and UK flags is seen in this illustration taken November 13, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – Hope for a trade deal between the UK and the European Union (EU) seems to have faded as the latest round of trade negotiations between the two sides ended with disappointing results in many ways. The EU then announced that even the smallest UK breach of the Brexit withdrawal treaty would undermine what little trust is left between the two sides.

Like the previous rounds of negotiations, the UK and the EU could not rectify their disagreements and come to a post-Brexit trade agreement. According to EU chief Brexit negotiator Barnier, the EU has shown flexibility and worked around the UK's red line issues to find solutions that fully respect the UK's sovereignty, in particular with regard to the role of the European Court of Justice, the future legislative autonomy of the UK, and fisheries. However, on its side, the UK has not engaged in a reciprocal way on fundamental EU principles and interests. Significant differences remain in areas of essential interest for the EU.

The situation worsened when the UK suddenly announced a new bill called the Internal Market Bill to change the Brexit deal, which acknowledged the possibility of violating some of the terms of the agreement. The UK government says its Internal Market Bill is a “safety net” designed to prevent disruption to internal U.K. trade in the event that there is no agreement by the end of the year.

The EU strongly opposed the above bill and stated that, even the smallest UK breach of the Brexit withdrawal treaty would undermine what little trust is left between the two sides. The warning came as Britain pushed ahead with legislation that it admits breaks international law by overriding parts of the legally binding withdrawal agreement that both Britain and the EU signed up to. “Breaking international law is not acceptable and does not create the confidence we need to build our future relationship,” EU Council President Charles Michel said.Along with the above warnings, the EU is preparing for a no-deal Brexit scenario, also known as “hard Brexit”.

With the above situation, analysts said that post-Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU seem to have “fallen into the abyss” and can not be saved. Even within the EU, there are also contradictions and not many EU members believe in a "happy ending" in the UK-EU trade negotiation process. While Germany hopes the UK will step back to avoid “falling into a cliff”, France - a power in the EU - strongly opposes them.

The US, an important partner of both the UK and the EU, does not support the UK Internal Market Bill. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives said that “if the UK violates the international treaty and Brexit undermines the Good Friday (peace) accord, there will be absolutely no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing Congress.”

Meanwhile, European businesses are concerned about a “hard Brexit” scenario that will cause serious consequences for economic sectors, especially the automobile industry of the continent. “If there were a no-deal Brexit, this would cost the European car industry EUR110 billion”, said a conglomerate of 23 European car sector federations, those of the UK included.

In the context that both the UK and EU economies are struggling to recover enough growth to get out of the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, negative impacts from “hard Brexit” are considered another “disaster” for both sides. For the UK, however, the consequences may be not only about economics, but also external losses in relations with its important partners and allies, the EU and the US.