Brexit’s critical moment

Thursday, 2019-10-17 16:49:17
 Font Size:     |        Print

A worker cleans the floor ahead of the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: Reuters)
 Font Size:     |  

NDO - The Brexit negotiation process has entered a critical moment when the European Union (EU) hosted a summit on October 17. This is the last summit before the UK leaves the “Common European Home” as scheduled on October 31. However, which “scenario” for Brexit is still an open question.

The UK and the EU are “racing against time” to pass a “farewell” agreement before the deadline of the UK leaving the bloc. In the early days of the week, British and EU negotiators worked hard to reach a draft Brexit agreement. Spokesmen from both sides expressed cautious optimism about the possibility that a Brexit deal could be reached this week. UK Prime Minister Johnson's spokesman said that if an agreement on Britain's departure from the EU was secured, PM Johnson hoped that Parliament would work urgently to pass a bill to take the UK out of the EU on October 31.

Meanwhile, the EU also made positive comments on the prospect of reaching a Brexit agreement with the UK. The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator hoped that a deal with London could be reached this week. However, he warned that more difficult negotiations would be needed. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade S. Conveney made a similar comment, while the adviser to the French President emphasised the possibility of reaching an agreement to avoid chaos.

However, analysts are not optimistic about the UK’s ability to reach a “farewell” agreement with the EU. The main bottlenecks of the current Brexit process are issues related to customs and security at the border between the EU members which are Ireland and Northern Ireland. The UK proposed that Northern Ireland will remain in the UK customs, but EU taxes will be imposed on all goods from the British mainland to this island. Meanwhile, the EU said that in order to reach an agreement, it was necessary to re-consider the solution to keep Northern Ireland in the European Union Customs. Previous rounds of negotiations between the UK and the EU were unable to reach a consensus on this issue and it has not been easy for the two sides to negotiate the issue during the short time ahead of the EU Summit.

While EU and UK politicians are cautiously optimistic about the Brexit deal, the EU media quoted a number of European diplomats saying that there is no sign of a breakthrough in the EU-UK negotiations. The EU negotiators want PM Johnson to commit to maintaining a fair playing ground in post-Brexit trade rules, in order to create favourable conditions for building a free trade agreement in the future. Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne affirmed that the EU and the UK could continue negotiations after the EU Summit.

As for the UK, it seems that London does not have high expectations of a Brexit deal and has prepared for the possibility of a “hard Brexit”. The British PM said he could see the path to the deal, but much work was needed to achieve that and the UK needed to prepare to leave the EU on October 31. If no Brexit agreement can be reached after the end of the EU Summit, he will have to comply with a new law passed by the Parliament in September, which requested a three-month Brexit delay, until January 31, 2020.

The aforementioned situation shows that, although Brexit has entered a “critical moment”, the future of the UK process of leaving the EU has not been finalised and that it continues to cause insecurity for investors and the international community. Because a “hard Brexit” will certainly cause great damage to the UK, as well as significant negative impacts on regional and international economies.