Rarely has the failure of a Brexit negotiating round left Brussels feeling as good as the one that yesterday closed the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. The agreement on the first phase of the negotiations was not possible but, for the first time, after half a year of unsuccessful contacts, it is within reach.
Everything was planned to announce yesterday that they had found solutions to all pending issues, but May backed down at the last minute. The formula included in the draft agreement for Northern Ireland – the guarantee that in this territory the regulation will remain in line with the EU – was excessive for its allies in Belfast and encouraged Scotland, London and Gibraltar to claim similar treatment .
The United Kingdom gives“It’s not a failure,” says Junker, who praises May for being a “tough negotiator”
There is still hope, however, of arriving in a few days to an agreement that will allow European leaders next week to open talks on the future trade agreement between the EU and London and on possible transitory periods. “It is not a failure,” insisted Juncker, who praised May for being “a tough negotiator” in defending the interests of the United Kingdom, flattery that also indicates the assignments finally made by the British leader to approach an agreement. “We will meet before the end of this week. I am confident that we will successfully conclude “the talks, said May, who spoke of” two outstanding issues “.
The first of these is the solution to prevent the Brexit from forcing a new physical border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which on March 29, 2019 will no longer belong to the European Union, the single market and the union. Customs The Good Friday peace agreements are based in part on the absence of barriers between both territories and nobody wants to see them reappear. The Irish border has, however, become the place where it is most difficult to reconcile the imperatives of reality with the lightness of the promises in the Brexit campaign.
In the absence of ideas from London, the solution devised by the European negotiators is for the British Government to ensure that Northern Ireland will remain “aligned in terms of regulation” with the EU, even if the rest of the UK moves away from it progressively. your standards The contacts held during the weekend in Brussels, London and Dublin invited us to think that it had hit the nail on the head, that from that promise we could work towards a solution and, in the meantime, open negotiations on the rest of the issues of the Brexit, like the Twenty-seven and London wanted to do.
Jealousy of Northern IrelandScotland, Gibraltar and the city of London also want special treatment
The European negotiator, Michel Barnier, who met with MEPs before Juncker and May’s lunch, confided that the agreement was imminent. “Tell me why I like Mondays!” Tweeted the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, paraphrasing The Cure, to say that he was “very close” to finding that there was “enough progress” to move to the second phase of the negotiation. In Ireland, the prime minister, Leo Varadkar, had everything ready to make an institutional declaration to celebrate the agreement …
Everything fell apart when May made a final telephone consultation with his allies of the DUP, the Northern Irish unionist party with which he agreed to rule after the fiasco of the early June elections. The solution is unacceptable for this formation, which categorically rejects any concession that implies a different treatment for the territory. They fear that in the long run that distance will feed the desire to reunify the island.
The implications of the long-term European plan are yet to be seen, otherwise it would make it necessary to carry out checks at the border posts on the entry and exit of goods to the emerald island. At the moment, the prospect of an agreement allowing part of the United Kingdom to remain de facto in the internal market encouraged the mayor of London and the governments of Edinburgh and Gibraltar to demand similar treatment for their territories, which voted against Brexit in the referendum. The British Government and the EU only accept special treatment for Northern Ireland, given their special situation.
The Irish prime minister declared himself “surprised and disappointed” because May backed down on an agreement that he had given as closed. The draft offered guarantees that there would be “no divergence with respect to the rules of the domestic market and the customs union that now or in the future support cooperation between the North and the South and protect the Good Friday agreements.” Varadkar said he was willing to give “more time” to the negotiation and even to revise the text “as long as its meaning is the same,” but reminded May that the DUP is not the majority party in Northern Ireland at all.
The other pending issue, of lesser importance because much progress has already been made on the substantive issues, is the role of the EU Court of Justice, to which the hard sector of the Tories does not want to reserve any role when it comes to guaranteeing rights of citizens affected by Brexit. It seems a salvageable obstacle. The question of the bill, which the British Government had obstinately avoided until a few days ago, also seems at last to be channeled. Fear of non-agreement led May last week to propose a calculation method to Brussels that would triple the amount he would be willing to pay, up to 60,000 million euros, a figure in line with the expectations of the European Union.
“Time is running,” Barnier has said countless times, since the British government formally notified his decision to leave the club. In the end, the Twenty-Seven’s tactic to force London to clarify the basic terms of their divorce before talking about the future relationship has worked. Now all that remains is for May to sign.