British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had threatened to cut talks with the EU on a trade deal if the EU summit on October 15 failed to deliver. Despite this threat, negotiations are unlikely to be concluded any time soon. This is evident from a so-called telegram report from the permanent representation of Germany in Brussels to the federal government.
In the report entitled “US – For Official Use Only”, which is available to the Tagesspiegel, several areas of conflict – including fisheries and future cooperation within the judiciary – are mentioned in the ongoing discussions. According to the assessment of the European Commission, no breakthrough in the negotiations is expected in the next two weeks.
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An EU summit is scheduled for 15 October in Brussels to discuss future relations with Great Britain. Despite Johnson’s threat to break off talks on future relations mid-month if negotiations were unsuccessful, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier repeatedly cited the end of October as a deadline for an agreement.
“Tunnel” talks ahead of the October 15 summit are unlikely
As the wire report shows, the European Commission recently tempered expectations that before the summit in mid-October, both sides could enter into a negotiating format known as “tunnel” in Brussels jargon. In these “tunnel” conversations, where negotiations are conducted with increased intensity, no details should be leaked. The British government and the EU are already familiar with this way of negotiating: for example, the exit agreement came about a year ago, which made Brexit possible last January.
Johnson is now calling this agreement into question with a controversial internal market law, against which the European Commission took legal action on Thursday. The law, as passed by the House of Commons last Tuesday, would undermine Northern Ireland’s protocol to the Withdrawal Treaty. The Northern Ireland Protocol states that there must not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Is the Internal Market Act Just Leveraging for Johnson?
It remains to be seen whether Johnson would actually violate the Withdrawal Agreement while also violating the 1998 Northern Ireland Peace Agreement. The Internal Market Act apparently serves him as a means of applying political pressure to reach the best possible deal in talks with the EU on a trade deal. This reading is supported by the fact that Johnson still leaves the schedule for the final vote on the bill in the House of Lords open.