The British and European Union will visit London next week for the eighth round of talks on their future relationship, but neither side expects progress. Michael Barnier warned this week that there would be no agreement if Britain did not change its current stance on fisheries and state aid.
On Friday evening, Britain’s chief contractor David Frost rejected Barnier’s claim.
“We have set aside a lot of time for discussions and at this stage we need to participate in the discussions. However, the European Union (EU) is still pushing for a change in our position on state aid and fisheries in order to have significant textual discussions on anything else. We have been clear from the beginning what we can accept in these areas that underlie our status as an independent nation. We will have constructive discussions, but the EU’s stance may realistically limit the progress we have made next week, “he said.
Boris Johnson said on Friday that there would be no agreement and that Britain would “grow strong” without anything. Earlier, the Spectator’s political editor, James Forsyth, reported that the Prime Minister did not want to make any deal other than withdrawing from a guarantee of state aid.
Although the European Union has abandoned the requirement for Britain to comply with European law with state assistance, it insists that the UK subsidy regime should be part of any agreement.
Europeans want to see the essence of the state aid system, they want to know what kind of domestic implementation Britain should implement, they want to discuss the dispute resolution system. Britain argues that such details have no place in any agreement with the European Union, but that European businesses have no appetite for allowing European businesses to cut European rivals with the help of unfair state subsidies.
Science and steel
They are concerned about how Johnson’s government, which wants to make Britain a world leader in science and technology, will subsidize areas such as artificial intelligence and renewable energy. But they also fear the impact of state aid on industries like steel.
Since the possibility of an agreement does not appear to be rising, both sides are considering nothing but the future and whether negotiations will resume next year after Britain collapses. Some in Johnson’s government believe a deal could be struck next year without state aid pledges, but estimates in European capitals that a few months’ tariffs and border delays could make Britain an easier partner to negotiate with next year.