March 28, 2018
The recent discussions between Michel Barnier and David Davis, validated by the European Council, demonstrate many things: a failure to understand technical issues, stunning hypocrisy, signs of a Plan B. There is so much we still do not know.
Based on public statements, the UK has obtained victory regarding the transition period, now 21 months (30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020). This is exactly what the EU proposed, the British having sought a minimum period of 24 months.
Now the goal is to strike a free trade agreement (including services and the financial passport?) and avoid any physical border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (will the latter remain in the single market?). Neither goal is achievable within the current timeframes.
It seems the transition will be devoted to re-negotiating trade agreements with the WTO’s consent. The joint COPA-FoodDrinkEurope press release is interesting in this respect. Both believe the transition period “should last until new trade arrangements are implemented and functional, to avoid unnecessary legal uncertainty and disruption of trade.”
In reality, the WTO and its members (particularly the USA) must give their agreement before the end of negotiations. As a result, some argue for an extension of the negotiation period beyond 2 years. If this happens, bye bye Brexit.Daniel Gueguen