The stakes for a last ditch Brexit deal are really high, evidenced in

LONDON: It can be hard, in the climactic days of a high-stakes settlement, to separate theatrics from substance– therefore it was Saturday evening, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, hung up after an hourlong phone call.Von der Leyen said Britain and the European Union would send their arbitrators back to the table in a last-ditch effort to close the gaps holding up an agreement on their post-Brexit trading relationship. Johnson’s aides released a vivid image of him on the phone, gesturing in the glare of an old-fashioned desk lamp, like a wartime prime minister fighting on behalf of his country.On Monday, the two leaders will speak once again to identify whether an offer can be struck by a Dec. 31 deadline. If not, the European Union will begin imposing tariffs on British goods. Four and a half years after Britons voted directly to leave the union, the final act of the long-running Brexit drama is at hand.With the outcome so uncertain, Britain and the EU are preparing their domestic audiences either for a landmark accord that will need compromise on both sides— or for a breakdown that will interfere with cross-channel trade, pitching both Britain and Europe into uncharted area as the economies of both have actually been damaged by the pandemic.Nobody disagreements that there are genuine differences between the two sides, ranging from state help to fishing rights.”There is still some range to take a trip, and the range has yet to be taken a trip, because it includes concessions that are painful,” said Mujtaba Rahman, an expert at the political threat consultancy Eurasia Group. “That becomes part of the factor both sides have a vested interest in being seen to be battling.”That is particularly true of Johnson, who won election in 2015 by assuring to “get Brexit done.” Under the terms of the withdrawal contract he signed with Brussels, Britain formally left the EU in January. But it agreed to abide by the bloc’s rules and policies for an 11-month shift duration up until the two worked out more long-term trade arrangements.Now, Johnson will have to decide whether the EU’s needs are excessive of a risk to his vision of British sovereignty. He knows that striking an accord that is viewed as a betrayal of Brexit might be poisonous, damaging his relations with the faction of the Conservative Party that assisted him to power. The very same Brexiteers ruthlessly disposed of Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.After months of grinding negotiations, the two sides are battling over the same concerns that have divided them from the start: state aid to industries– known as the “level playing field”– and EU access to British fishing waters.Fishing has ended up being a charged issue as President Emmanuel Macron of France, facing his own next election in 2022, has actually pushed for ongoing access for French fishing fleets. Johnson has actually made big promises to his nation’s fishermen, who have complained for years about sharing Britain’s waters with continental boats, which in some areas can catch far more than British ones.Although financially irrelevant– its yearly contribution to Britain’s economy is less than that of the trendy London department store Harrods– the fishing market is politically totemic because of its value to seaside towns, where there are couple of other sources of employment.Last week, the French prime minister, Jean Castex, went to the port of Boulogne-sur-Mer, in France’s far north, to assure fishermen. The country’s Europe minister, Clément Beaune, cautioned that Paris would ban any unsatisfactory trade deal. Because Britain sells much of the fish it captures inside the EU, experts think a deal is in the interests of both sides and will therefore not be the cause of a collapse.Perhaps harder to bridge is the gap over guidelines on reasonable competitors, a problem where the two sides are still talking past each other.Johnson says that considering that Britain wants only a fundamental free trade offer– similar to the one that Canada struck with the EU– Britain needs to not be tied to European guidelines. However authorities in Brussels fear that Britain, as a large economy on Europe’s doorstep, could adopt lower labor or ecological standards, flood the European market and undercut continental companies.Johnson appears ready to preserve existing standards that Britain consented to as a member of the EU, but not to adopt ones that Brussels may put in location in the future. For him, analysts said, this is a question of sovereignty and independence, which he views as the prime dividend of Brexit.Yet the worry in continental Europe is that this could successfully give Britain a veto over future European policy. For ambitious leaders like Macron, that would threaten the sovereignty of the EU at a time when he and others are looking for a more muscular role in the international economy.”It has to do with the EU being a geopolitical platform on the planet, having a voice in the competition with China and in its relationship with the new Biden administration in the U.S.,” Rahman said.Johnson should likewise consider his relations with President-elect Joe Biden, who opposed Brexit.The Johnson government just recently introduced legislation giving it the power to break parts of its withdrawal arrangement with the EU that deal with Northern Ireland. That antagonized the Europeans, but it likewise ruffled Biden, due to the fact that such moves could result in the return of a hard verge on the island of Ireland.Biden cautioned Johnson not to do anything in his Brexit settlements that would threaten the Great Friday Agreement, which ended years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. If London and Brussels strike a trade deal, Johnson would likely remove the offending language from the legislation.In the meantime, nevertheless, his ministers insist they will proceed with the Northern Ireland bill, which is arranged to go back to your home of Commons on Monday. That might inject another flammable component into the talks. With time running out, experts are nervous that any miscalculation could cause a breakdown in talks with the EU.”If both sides were prepared to get on an equivalent basis, you could see an offer,” said David Henig, director of the U.K. Trade Policy Job at the European Center for International Political Economy, a research institute.”Any prime minister would choose an offer,” Henig added, “but Boris Johnson has backed himself into a huge corner– and while all reasoning runs toward an arrangement, momentum and emotion are running against.”

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