The October 15 deadline set by Prime Minister Johnson has passed. However, instead of breaking off the talks as announced, the Johnson government will probably continue to sit at the negotiating table with Brussels in the coming weeks. Once again, the realization of the past few years that even if the situation appears to be completely hopeless, it is still far from over. On several occasions, the parties involved have been on the verge of a hard break. And yet, so far they have managed to end Britain’s EU membership largely without upheaval, to negotiate a transitional phase and to discuss the shape of a subsequent free trade agreement – a fact that the negotiators and political representatives involved in the process can consider a success.
It is not surprising that the path to this point has not always been straight or dominated by rational-economic aspects. After all, it is not just a matter of finding a compromise. Rather, it must be marketed in such a way that the population is satisfied with it. Any concession to the other side must have been made under the greatest pressure, visible to everyone, and sold at a high price. Talks that run too smoothly could give the impression that a better deal was possible. In this case, dissatisfaction and resistance among the population and a receipt at the next elections threatened. Both sides therefore have a rational interest in waiting until the very last second to find a compromise. This is particularly true of Boris Johnson, whose Corona crisis management is in the crossfire of criticism and whose poll ratings have fallen steadily in recent months.
On the basis of these assessments, it is clear that the current supposedly hopeless situation in the negotiations, some two and a half months before the end of the transition phase that is currently set, need by no means be a clear proof of a chaotic end to the brexite process. Rather, we continue to believe that the most likely scenario is that Brussels and London will agree on the rough outline of a free trade agreement before the end of the year. An extension of the transition phase, which is also possible in Great Britain through a change in the law, would then provide the necessary time in 2021 to work out the details and make the necessary preparations.