Today, the long-awaited negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and Great Britain have finally begun. The British and Prime Minister Johnson have already put pressure on us in advance. However, the EU’s negotiating position remains good and the EU should not be put off. Without an agreement, the British have more to lose than the EU.
Even the overpowering Corona crisis did not succeed in completely pushing the headlines about the upstream exchange of blows between Michel Barnier and Boris Johnson out of the limelight. As so often in recent years, the British side, in particular, has been mainly preoccupied with tactical positioning. Constructive proposals on content have so far been scarce. Indeed, the British negotiating mandate reads like a wish list to Santa Claus. The British government hopes for an „ambitious free trade agreement“ with largely barrier-free access to the internal market (for goods). British banks are also to be protected and not restricted in their activities in the EU. As far as cooperation on security and crime is concerned, the British would also like to continue to benefit from the EU apparatus in the future. At the same time, however, they are not prepared to enter into what the EU considers to be the obligations associated with these demands. Neither are they prepared to accept an adaptation of British laws to the rules of the EU, nor should the European Court of Justice be able to exercise jurisdiction in Britain. Fishing rights also remain a highly competitive area: the British government insists on a regulation which would allow it to determine anew every year the access of EU boats to British waters – something the EU, in turn, is not prepared to accept.
As if the negotiations on an FTA were not already difficult enough in view of these immense hurdles, the extremely tight timeframe adds to the pressure. The FTA must not only be negotiated but also ratified by the end of the year. It is assumed that the negotiations would have to be completed by October in order to meet this timetable. Boris Johnson, never at a loss to make a difficult situation even more difficult, has now announced that his government is prepared to break off negotiations as early as June if no agreement has been reached by then. The conditions for the start of negotiations are very bad.