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Brexit: How are UK negotiations with the EU going?



  Boris Johnson European Councilor David Frost (left) with UK Permanent Representative to the EU Tim Barrow Copyright
Reuters

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Boris Johnson Councilor for Europe, David Frost was in Brussels for talks this week

EU officials say Britain is "dancing around problems" in Brussels talks on a Brexit deal.

The Boris Johnson Government sought to renegotiate the withdrawal agreement negotiated by its predecessor, Teresa May, but so far discussions have been at a very general level.

The EU maintains that the text of the withdrawal agreement is closed but is still being listened to.

"The UK wants less involved relations," says an EU source close to the talks, "but it is not clear what this means in practice."

Brexit envoy to Prime Minister David Frost returns to Brussels this week for more talks, but time is running out.

The UK authorities argue that criticism of their approach by the EU is unfair.

"This week we are holding talks that take into account the discussions of last week," says one employee, "and we have agreed where to focus the talks in the future. "

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Reuters

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Mr Johnson meets other European leaders, including Angela Merkel

"Let's do this" is Mr Johnson's message and he is meeting and will continue to meet with other EU leaders. But there is no sign of any country breaking the ranks to negotiate separately with the United Kingdom.

This means that the focus is still in Brussels.

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So far this week, the British side has stated that it has submitted ideas for customs and manufactured goods, while there has been further discussion of a non-binding political declaration, which is in line with the withdrawal agreement and outlines future relations between the two countries.

But while the government says progress is being made, the EU insists no formal proposals have been tabled. [1

9659007] "We want to continue this," says an EU source. "But at some point the UK has to make us a proposal. We cannot negotiate without one. "

Irish back

Both parties claim that the United Kingdom has requested that the protocol on Ireland be lifted quite radically – to remove a back stop designed to keep the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as open as it currently is any future circumstances.

The EU has always said that it is open to an alternative plan for guaranteeing an open border – but does not currently consider it to be.

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The idea of ​​a fully Irish Food and Animal Area (in which the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will follow the same rules after Brexit) has been explored and officials say Britain has presented "preliminary ideas" on how any decision in Ireland can to include the consent of all parties.

But UK officials reject the suggestion that such discussions could be a turning point – covering all aspects of trade – only for Northern Ireland and not for the current plan, which will keep the whole of the customs territory of the EU.

"Not yet for the Northern Irish backstage," says one official.

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Getty Images

Negotiation Team

So the problem of Irish borders remains the biggest obstacle to any new deal.

However, almost all UK officials in the Brexit negotiations who produced this withdrawal agreement, including the reverse stop, are no longer involved in the process.

"The core of the UK negotiation team is gone," Joe Owen, of the Institute of Management, says.

"They either left Whitehall entirely or went to other government jobs. There is a great loss of institutional knowledge."

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Many Brexiteers may consider this a good thing, but it may not help to achieve quick results.

The size of the European unit in the cabinet has decreased dramatically, but senior officials dispute the assumption that the negotiating team is smaller or smaller.

"Just the support comes from elsewhere," Permanent Cabinet Secretary John Manzoni told MPs on Monday. "In fact, there are probably more people [involved now]."

Future Relationships

In addition to replacing the rear stop, Boris Johnson wants a clearer path to what he calls the "best in class" in Canada's free style – commercial agreement with the EU in the future.

But during the talks in Brussels, it became clear that this would involve the United Kingdom getting rid of many equal terms – promises made by Teresa May to adhere to EU rules on things like business subsidies, workers' rights and environmental rules.

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However, this may make it difficult to reach a possible free trade agreement.

The EU is far more nervous about equality issues with the UK than with a UK country like Canada, because the United Kingdom is a much closer geographical and much larger trading partner, so it represents a much larger a great competitive threat.

And the less likely a trade transaction is to be concluded relatively quickly in the future, the more likely it is for the EU to adhere strictly to the reverse stop conditions.

"What we cannot do, and we will not do, replace the legal guarantee with a promise," Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadcar told a press conference with Boris Johnson in Dublin this week.

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EPA

Watching the Clock

There is also meaning in the conversations that the UK's desire to lose relationships involves not only economic issues but also defense and security.

All this infuriates the EU.

Behind the scenes there is plenty but little security.

Philip Rickroft, who until recently was Permanent Secretary of the Exit Department, said it would be very difficult to reach a deal by mid-October.

"I think it's possible," he says, "but I don't see the other 26 countries ignoring the interests of Ireland … and the weather is crushing."

If the EU changes its position, the point is that it would like some degree of certainty for a new deal to win the approval of the UK Parliament.

This may mean waiting for a general election, but if something is to be achieved in these talks, it will have to happen fairly quickly.

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