Johnson Back in Office, But Brexit Negotiations Not on Track

 In Brexit

Boris Johnson has spent several weeks recovering from coronavirus, after spending time in the hospital and even three nights at the ICU. On Monday he returned back to work on Downing Street 10. He is fully recovered and is resuming all work and full responsibility again.

Not only is he back at his desk, but he also became a father again as his fiancee Carrie Symonds gave birth to a boy. Mother and child are doing very well according to this article by the BBC.

Top of the list on his agenda will be the battle against coronavirus. The United Kingdom is among the heaviest hit countries in the European region.

Another item that will be high on his list of priorities is Brexit. The last round of negotiations has ended at the end of last week, and there is not a lot of progress yet.

The Guardian reports:

The latest round of the (physically distanced) Brexit talks ended on Friday, with both sides blaming the other for the lack of progress.

The government is accusing the EU of treating the UK more harshly than other counterparts in recent trade deals, while the EU fears ministers are backsliding on aspects of the Brexit deal struck last October.

Boris Johnson is expected to ask the European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and EU leaders to intervene in the negotiations in the hope of breaking the deadlock.

The government must decide in June whether to seek an extension to the status quo transition period, something ministers have repeatedly insisted they are determined not to do.

Only two more rounds of videoconference negotiations are currently scheduled, but Johnson may hope that his personal involvement could help, as it did last autumn.

Read the original story here.

Trade Deal Negotiations Not Going Well

The negotiations on the trade deal that will have to go in effect at the end of this year, when the transition period officially comes to an end, are not going well.

The BBC reports:

The progress made in post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU has been disappointing, Michel Barnier has said.

The EU’s chief negotiator said “genuine progress” and a decision on whether to extend the transition period were both needed by June.

The UK said “limited progress” had been made and talks needed to “move forward in a constructive fashion”.

The two sides will hold two further rounds of talks before the end of the transition period in December.

Mr Barnier said a joint decision would be taken on 30 June about whether to extend the transition period.

But the UK government has already said it will refuse to extend it beyond December, even if the EU requested a delay.

Read the full article here.

The main points of disagreement are around fishing rights, the rules of competition, the form of the trade deal, and the mechanism to resolve disputes between the European Union and the United Kingdom. There are only two more rounds of talks planned between now and the end of June. According to voices from both sides of the table, that will not be enough. The first of July is an important date in the Brexit process, as any request for an extension of the transition period needs to be put in before that. Johnson is still refusing to do so, while from other sides the call for an extension is still loud and clear.

Calls for an Extension Grow Louder

A close ally of Germany’s Prime Minister Angela Merkel has told reporters there is no way there can be an agreement in time.

The Guardian reports:

Boris Johnson must extend the UK’s transition out of the EU for up to two years to avoid compounding the economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic with a hugely disruptive and disorderly Brexit, according to a close ally of Angela Merkel.

In an interview with the Observer, Norbert Röttgen, chair of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, said it was now impossible to see how the UK and other EU countries could agree even a minimal outline free trade agreement this year because the talks were so behind schedule.

Read the full article here.

Some further interesting reading material on the matter:

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