Saturday 25 January 2020

Kevin Doyle: 'Talk of 'getting Brexit done' will still be around next Christmas'


DEALS: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston at Government Buildings in Dublin last September. Photo: Damien Eagers
DEALS: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston at Government Buildings in Dublin last September. Photo: Damien Eagers
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

We should know by now that when it comes to Brexit and Boris Johnson nothing is ever simple.

The result of the UK election was widely welcomed across Europe, not because EU leaders have any love for Mr Johnson, but because it ended the uncertainty.

Well, that lasted all of four days.

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We now have another year of uncertainty ahead of us as Mr Johnson gambles with his own economy and ours yet again.

On paper, the UK government is due to be totally cut loose from the EU on December 31, 2020 - but that is a target more than a deadline.

The timeline only allows 11 months for both sides to negotiate a horrendously complicated trade deal.

Nobody, on the EU side at least, actually believes that can be achieved so quickly, which is why there is a built-in mechanism that allows for an extension.

While much of the focus will be on the free trade element, the talks will also have to look at arrangements for security, data sharing and foreign policy issues.

The EU hopes to start the negotiations by March, while Britain said it wants to start as soon as possible.

The fastest major trade pact the EU ever concluded was with South Korea, reached in 2009 after two and a half years of negotiation.

It came into force nearly two years after that.

There are already signs that it will not be easy for the EU and UK to reach a deal, especially as Mr Johnson has indicated he does not want to be tied to European standards for produce.

The EU has said that the future relationship with the UK should be as close as possible and will have to be based on a "balance of rights and obligations and ensure a level playing field".

Sources said the EU side, which will be led by chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Ireland's EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, are particularly concerned about Mr Johnson's position on environmental and labour standards.

They will also demand certain commitments relating to state aid in order to ensure that Britain cannot offer products on the EU's single market at unfairly low prices.

And while all this is happening, the EU will be monitoring what noises Mr Johnson makes about a trade deal with Donald Trump and the United States.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney appears somewhat baffled by the UK and Mr Johnson's move, noting that the EU hasn't missed a single deadline during the process to date.

"It has been the UK that has missed deadlines in the past," he said.

So be warned: We'll still be talking about 'Getting Brexit Done' next Christmas.

Irish Independent

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