May 28th 2020IT IS NO surprise that negotiations on Britain’s future relationship with the EU have been difficult. The two sides have dug into oppos
IT IS NO surprise that negotiations on Britain’s future relationship with the EU have been difficult. The two sides have dug into opposing positions on such issues as a level playing-field for competition, fisheries and the role of the European Court of Justice. Negotiating on politically contentious matters by video link, thanks to covid-19, makes it much harder to feel out necessary compromises. And the clock is ticking: the deadline for a deal is December 31st, when the transition period is due to end.
Next week sees the final round of talks before a summit in June due to assess progress. The previous one ended in a bad-tempered exchange of letters between the British negotiator, David Frost, and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier. Mr Frost called for the EU to think again about its proposals. Mr Barnier said success was possible only if tangible and parallel progress was made in all areas. Both sides have published opposing draft treaties. Since each is under a mandate that can be changed only by their political masters, who are preoccupied by covid-19, expectations of any progress next week are low.
This is compounded by mistrust over implementing the withdrawal agreement, especially the protocol that keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs union. Next week also sees the second meeting of the joint committee supervising this agreement. The EU is pleased that…