According to Michel Barnier, there is a compromise in the negotiations with Great Britain on the future tariff regime. However, individual points of contention are still open.
In the Brexit dispute, the UK and European Union negotiators have clarified essential points – but not all of them yet. According to diplomats, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday evening in Brussels that there was agreement at expert level on the tariff regulation for Northern Ireland, the right of the Northern Irish parliament to have a say and there were British promises not to undercut EU environmental and social standards. The cooperation on sales tax and value-added tax remained unclear. An overall agreement was therefore still outstanding.
The BBC reported, citing British government circles, that no agreement would be reached on Thursday night. The delays in the negotiations were apparently because the British negotiators had to coordinate with the government in London. A cabinet meeting in London was prematurely broken off because nothing had been decided in Brussels. According to diplomats, Britain and the EU began on Tuesday to translate a possible agreement on a Brexit contract into a legal text.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and French President Emmanuel Macron expressed optimism about an agreement with Great Britain despite the delays. “After what I have heard over the past few days, I believe in such an agreement even more,” Merkel said after the Franco-German Council of Ministers in Toulouse. Commenting on the discussions of the Heads of State and Government in Brussels starting on Thursday, Macron said: “I think an agreement is on the way and we can talk about it tomorrow”.
The main features of the agreement are as follows
According to EU Council President Donald Tusk, both sides have agreed on the main features of a deal so that the negotiations could be concluded within a few hours. “Everything is going well, but as you may have noticed, anything is possible with Brexit and our British partners,” Tusk said in a TV interview. “Last night I would have bet that the deal was ready and accepted. Today some doubts have arisen again from the British side,” he continued.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to take his country out of the EU on 31 October, even without an agreement if necessary. However, in September the British parliament had obliged Johnson by law to request a Brexit postponement should there be no deal with the EU on a deal by 19 October.
The question of how the border between the British state of Northern Ireland and the EU state of Ireland can be kept open remains controversial. Johnson made new offers to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar last week, which brought the negotiations forward. The details of where and how customs and physical checks are to take place need to be clarified.
Also Read: The Brexit consequences in everyday life
Proposal of customs border is a red line for Northern Ireland
Varadkar was now optimistic. He said after telephone calls with Boris Johnson and the EU Commission that he saw progress in the negotiations, although points still needed to be clarified.
Johnson’s concessions to the EU could jeopardise the necessary support in the British parliament. The prime minister has no majority in the House of Commons and depends on every vote. The crux of the matter could be that in future a customs border between the EU and Great Britain could run through the Irish Sea. This solution is expected in German government circles.
Such a proposal had already met with fierce resistance in London. The leader of the Northern Ireland Protestant Party DUP, Arlene Foster, had described it as a “bloody red line”. In the opinion of former Brexit Minister David Davis, the decisive factor is whether the DUP now supports an agreement. “Many Tory deputies will depend on what the DUP does,” the Brexit hardliner told the BBC.