[Revue de presse] Brexit: agreements and disagreements two days from the summit

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An extraordinary European summit is convened this Sunday in Brussels. The proposed UK withdrawal agreement from the EU, reached on Nov. 13 by Brexit negotiators, should be endorsed by the Twenty-Eight. The latter should also endorse the "political declaration" revealed Thursday, which will guide further negotiations. But disagreements persist between the parties, while the recent "advances" on the Brexit are still very much criticized in London.

Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk, November 15 - Credits: Donald Tusk / Twitter

Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk, November 15 – Credits: Donald Tusk / Twitter

"Concerns around Sunday's extraordinary summit on Brexit are being resolved one after the other" … Beyond the stock market rebound, would optimism win RFI this weekend?

Thursday, November 22, three days from the summit at which the Twenty-eight are supposed to ratify the draft release agreement from the United Kingdom of the EU, "the negotiators reached agreement on two major points, both the extension of the transitional period and the political statement which should frame future negotiations on the future of Euro-British relations "says international radio.

The transition period, during which these negotiations will take place, can thus be extended "up to two years after the end of 2020, the date originally foreseen in the withdrawal treaty", note Les Echos.

For its part, the "Political Declaration setting the framework for future relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom" was immediately sent to the Member States which will have to endorse it on Sunday, in parallel with the draft withdrawal agreement of 585 pages unveiled on November 13 in Brussels. The latter fixes the provisional relations of the United Kingdom and the EU as of March 30, the date of the opening of the transitional period.

Brexit: the exit agreement in 8 key points

A future partnership "wide and deep"

Trade, defense, security, foreign policy … The political declaration, a document of about thirty pages which will guide the further negotiations, "sets the parameters for an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership", in his own words. "This partnership will include a free trade Area and broader sectoral cooperation. "" It provides for the absence of tariffs in all sectors, but will end the freedom of movement of people, which was a requirement of brexiters ", says BFMBusiness.

This statement also mentions the "determination" parts to "replace" the security net Ireland, explicitly referring to a future "independent commercial policy"from the UK."may mean that the final trade agreement will be minimal, a pure free trade agreement for goods, of the type that is concluded between the EU and Canada, which is often used as a reference for hard brexiters", observes Le Monde.But for the moment, the hypothesis of maintaining a "single customs territory" the end of the transition period seems equally likely.

In other words, "the prospects are wide and everyone could find his account", analyzes the daily, describing this text as "fudge (red herrings) that postpones essential choices".

"Although having no formal legal value, [ce document] will be politically essential"However, despite these advances negotiators, Theresa May has not yet completed the long-distance race started a year and a half ago."The British Prime Minister still has a few steps to go through. And not least", says Euronews, who speaks of a"final sprint"before the summit of this Sunday.

Gibraltar, fishing and competition: the points that annoy

Indeed, disputes persist, particularly around the status of Gibraltar, future trade relations and access of European fishing vessels to British waters.

While Theresa May reiterated Thursday in front of the House of Commons that "British sovereignty in Gibraltar will be protected"after Brexit [Europe1], the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, has indeed "reiterated"his firm intention not to support the exit agreement this Sunday, reports Ouest-France.The leader demands that a clause be added so that theSpain has a right of veto over future negotiations over the British enclave. For its part, the "Rock" of 7 km², located south of the Iberian Peninsula and claimed by Madrid for three centuries, "no longer hides his exasperation at having become in a few days the main threat to Brexit" [La Tribune].

"Technically, a Spanish block could not prevent the Europeans from signing the agreement: they only need a qualified majority to do it. But the precious display of European unity that has prevailed so far would then shatter", specify Les Echos In order to close the chapter,"the Twenty-Seven could therefore sign, between them, a text by which they undertake not to decide the future of Gibraltar without the agreement of Spain", writes the daily in a second article.

[Revue de presse] Brexit: Spain wants direct negotiation with London over Gibraltar

On Wednesday, another stumbling point was the subject of a meeting in Brussels between Theresa May and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. "Some countries like France [et les Pays-Bas, le Danemark ou encore le Portugal par exemple] insist that access to the European market for fish caught by the British be linked to access to British territorial waters for Europeans", explains Le Figaro (with AFP).

The draft withdrawal agreement "stipulates for the moment that an agreement between London and Brussels on the peach must occur before 1st July 2020, but this does not seem to be enough. The countries concerned plead for additional commitments", says Le Monde.

However, no progress has been recorded in recent hours on this subject. Thursday, before the House of Commons, the British Prime Minister has even assured parliamentarians that London will oppose this request for reciprocity: "We will negotiate access [au marché européen] and quotas on an annual basis, as do other independent coastal states", she said, citing Norway and Iceland.

"Still a lot of necessary discussions"

Finally, "Germany and France are worried about the risk of cunfair competition in the framework of the emerging customs union", adds TV5World.as part of this Irish 'safety net', with good chances [d’être pérennisé] at the end of the transitional period, the United Kingdom would participate in a customs union allowing its products to circulate relatively freely within the Union, but would be bound only by 'non-regression clauses' on related subjects to the environment, taxation or labor law", details Le Monde.

So, "The British would commit to respect the existing European rules of Brexit on these areas, but not to adapt their law to that of the EU, when it evolves.It is the open door, feared in Brussels, Paris or Amsterdam, at the risk of economic dumping by the British whether environmental, fiscal or social ".

"We have already made progress, but there will certainly be a lot of further discussion, especially in the UK", said Angela Merkel Thursday, quoted by AFP.

German chancellor warned, however, that there should be no last round of talks between the Twenty-Eight at Sunday's summit [Business Insider]. Theresa May will therefore go to Brussels in the day of Saturday to finalize the texts before they are submitted to the 27.

Moreover, to avoid a "no-deal", the Prime Minister will have to take the final step – and without a doubt the most difficult one: ratify the withdrawal agreement by the British parliament, in a vote scheduled for 11 December. Many voices have already warned that they would oppose it across the Channel. "The British pound surged more than 1% Thursday against the dollar after the announcement of a provisional agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union on the post-Brexit relationship. The currency has not returned to its level before its heavy fall last Thursday, when it plunged following the resignation of several members of the British government …", recalls Ouest-France, relativising the optimism surrounding.

[Revue de presse] Brexit: an agreement is found … will it be ratified?