It's been about 16-hundred-and-thirty days since Britain voted to leave the European Union. Yet, with just about three weeks until the divorce is complete, as the transition period ends this year, the two sides still haven't managed to agree on new terms of trade, as they both hold firm on red lines including fishing, business rules and how the deal would be governed.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Tuesday a no-deal is more likely than getting a trade pact by December 31st.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a deal would be "very difficult" to reach but the "power of sweet reason" could push it through.
He met with European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen Wednesday to see if it was possible to break the deadlock, and that ended without an agreement. Is there any way forward from this?
We discuss the latest today with Mark Shanahan, Associate Professor and Head of Department for Politics & International Relations at the University of Reading.
We welcome back Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Associate Professor of International Relations at Kings College London and KF-VUB Korea Chair at the Institute for European Studies at Brussels Free University. It's great to see you both again.
Dr. Shanahan: With technical negotiations hitting a wall time and time again, Boris Johnson had dinner on Wednesday evening with European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen to see if there's a political way through but that fell through without an agreement. Is the Brexit trade deal effectively dead?
Dr. Pacheco Pardo: The EU is pushing for the "Ratchet clause" under which the UK would have to follow the EU's social, environmental and health standards, which of course Britain says is unfair because other third countries, such as Canada, don't face the same constraints. While on fishing, the EU wants to keep its current level of access to British waters, while the UK would like to have yearly negotiations and expand exports for British fisherman. Differences over rules on governing the deal are also hard to narrow. These red lines show the friction between respecting British sovereignty and single market integrity.
Where are some potential areas of compromise each side might possibly be able to make?
Dr. Shanahan: There was quite a breakthrough on the deadlock over Northern Ireland. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and his counterpart on the UK-EU joint committee, Maros Sefcovic, reached an agreement on border checks and trading rules for Northern Ireland. How significant is this understanding and will it help improve the mood enough to secure a trade deal, or will it rather make a no deal more likely as the Northern Ireland issue has been resolved?
3. Dr. Pacheco Pardo: There have been questions as to what Joe Biden's election would mean for the Brexit debate. He isn't in office yet but is his stance on Brexit something that UK and EU negotiators are now factoring in?
Dr. Shanahan: If the UK gets to the end of the year without a trade deal with the EU, what happens after that? What are some potential areas of compromise each side might possibly be able make on the trade deal?
Dr. Pacheco Pardo: Do you think the two sides were perhaps too confident in the negotiations? Where do you think the two sides perhaps made miscalculations?
Dr. Pacheco Pardo: Some Brexiteers claim no-deal is fine. But what impact would this have on the two economies' major industries as they scramble to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic?
This question goes to both of you: Has this been somewhat an emotional rather than economic argument from the two sides? How important is it to restore trust between the two sides?
That was Dr. Mark Shanahan at the University of Reading, and Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo at King's College London joining us from Reading and London. Thank you for your time.