Relations strained a little more Wednesday between London and Brussels. Chief Brexit negotiator for the EU Michel Barnier released the letter he had just addressed to his British counterpart David Frost in the afternoon. An exchange of good procedure since the latter had done the same the day before.
In his letter, the former French minister is very critical of the method used. “I don’t think (…) that an exchange of letters concerning the substance of the negotiations is necessarily the best way to discuss the essential points,” he wrote, worrying that “the tone adopted” by Frost “had an impact on the mutual trust and constructive attitude that are essential between us. ” As discussions skate and the third round of negotiations that ended last Friday resulted in a new finding of failure, the letter from the British negotiator sounded like an ultimatum.
“I hope that in the coming weeks the EU will reflect again on its proposals in a way that allows us to find a quick and constructive outcome,” warned the British negotiator, pointing in particular to “additional provisions, unbalanced and unprecedented in a whole series of areas ”. The next round is due to start on June 1, while the UK must formally leave the Union at the end of 2020 and make known at the end of June at the latest whether or not it wishes to extend the extension period.
One framework: the letter of agreement
As he has been doing for months, Michel Barnier lists the red lines of the EU in his letter. First, the EU’s chief negotiator reminds his counterpart that the trade agreement with Canada – which he does not quote – cannot apply to the United Kingdom automatically. And that the only appropriate framework for this negotiation is the political declaration on future relations signed by the Twenty-Seven and Boris Johnson in October 2019. “There is no automatic right to benefit from all the advantages that the EU has been able to offer or grant in other contexts and circumstances to other partners, often very different. Each agreement the EU has concluded is unique, with its own balance of rights and obligations, tailored to the partner and the time of its conclusion. There is no blueprint in EU trade policy“, Insists Barnier. Which then goes back to the rules of the fair game deemed too strict by the British on the grounds that the United Kingdom would then lose its sovereignty. “Given our geographic proximity and economic interdependence, we must have significant guarantees of fair competition to avoid trade distortions and competitive advantages, to the benefit of consumers and businesses on both sides.“
Finally, concerning police and judicial cooperation, the chief negotiator underlines that “the EU has never before offered such a close and extensive security partnership to a third country which is not a member of the Schengen area” He adds that continuous access to Union or chengen databases requires, in return, “strong guarantees in terms of protection of fundamental rights“
No question, however, for Michel Barnier to end his missive on a negative note. “With the mutual respect and constructive engagement of the United Kingdom on all points on the negotiating table, we can move forward in the limited time available to us,” he concluded.
The teams of the Union’s chief negotiator are said to have hesitated for a long time before publishing this letter, and have notably questioned the tone to be used. “When they learned of Frost’s very aggressive letter, they wondered if the aim of the British was not to strain relations as much as possible in order to end negotiations. But they responded because it was necessary to respond, “analyzes a Brussels source. Anyway, it is not excluded that David Frost will receive a lot of emails in the coming hours. Indeed, his email address appears black on white on the copy of the letter made public by Michel Barnier on Twitter.