LONDON / BRUSSELS – The European Union is set to secure a Brexit agreement with Britain but will focus on London after Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to break the divorce agreement, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday.
The United Kingdom left the EU in January but remains a member of the United States until the end of the year, when it hopes to have a free trade agreement with the organization.
Negotiations have passed on fisheries, state aid regulations and how trade will enter Northern Ireland, which will remain – under the 2020 divorce agreement – closer to the EU than to the rest of the United Kingdom.
After Johnson introduced a bill that would override parts of the 2020 agreement, the EU demanded that he step down even though Parliament on Tuesday backed giving Johnson the power to implement it.
The bloc could take legal action over the proposed international violations, although this could take years to resolve, and at the moment EU ambassadors say Brussels wants talks on its future relations with Britain to continue.
Arriving in London ahead of informal talks with Britain, Barnier told when asked if he was optimistic about reaching an agreement: “I’m determined.”
“We remain calm, respectful, sensible and firm,” Barnier said, though he declined to comment on the Internal Market Bill or the prospect of a trade agreement.
Britain has said it hopes it will never need to use the proposed powers when the timetable of the British Interior Markets Bill says it will take a majority in October and November to look into.
That means it will not be lawful either before the EU deadline of September to cancel the program, or Johnson’s EU cooperation agreement.
“The timetable for the adoption of the bill provides a welcome platform for constructive consultation on complaints raised by the UK,” the EU chief executive said.
“My understanding is that a decision on possible EU legal action will not be taken until early October,” the official said.
Failure to reach an agreement will create uncertainty in trading everything from car parts and shellfish to data and Scotch whiskey, while disrupting financial markets just as European economies struggle with the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak.
British trucks could face a two-day delay in entering Europe with an estimated 7,000 truck lines after Britain left the blog at the end of the year, disrupting imports and exports of important goods, the government has warned.
Michael Gove, the minister in charge of Brexit negotiations, told the logistics industry that truck drivers will face new forms of cultural control regardless of whether a trade agreement can be reached between the two sides.
He said under the government’s worst scenario, up to 70% of trucks traveling to the EU may not be ready for new border controls.
Britain says it is working hard to reach an agreement, but has maintained its position that any treaty must respect the sovereignty of the country.
The EU says that because Britain is so close to the milestone, London must agree to a so-called fair playground to ensure fair competition.
Although the EU is holding a summit on October 1-2, just after the deadline, bloc leaders will not consider the next steps in relations with Britain until another summit in mid-October.