LONDON, Oct. 28 (Xinhua/GNA) – Negotiators have returned to the table to continue talks over a post-Brexit trade deal between Britain and the European Union (EU), a move seen by many as a positive development.
David Phinnemore, Professor of European Politics at Queen’s University Belfast, said the fact that negotiations are still on despite missing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s October deadline, is a « good sign ».
« They’re more intense. You’ve got more people involved. They’ve got a clear new structure to them. And I think that the commitment is there now to secure a deal, if possible, in time for it to come into force by the end of the year, » Prof. Phinnemore told Xinhua in a recent interview.
« I think one thing that we have seen is there’s been a little bit more detail provided as to where they are in negotiations. Insofar as I think when EU Chief Negotiator Michel, Barnier spoke to the European Parliament, he did really offer a range of areas where broadly the UK and the EU are in agreement. And that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that there is a fair amount on which they do agree, » he said.
The expert stressed, however, that huge differences still remain between the two sides. « Let’s not underestimate the fact that there are principles at play here, there are interests at play, » he added.
« The big question is, can those be resolved in the coming weeks? I think that the fact that both sides are talking suggests that they think there’s some space there to find the deal. And I think also, probably the politics has shifted somewhat because there’s more and more calls out there from businesses in particular, to get a deal, » he noted.
The two sides have clashed over the issue of « state aid » rules, which limit governmental help for industry in the name of ensuring fair economic competition; and over how much European fishing boats should be able to catch in British waters from next year.
According to Prof Phinnemore, aspects of these « sticking points » could be overlooked in favour of the bigger picture. « Fishing is always a big political issue in any negotiation, it raises sensitivities. But I think more and more people see the bigger picture — it’s a very small percentage of the economy, » he said.
« The UK has fishing waters to which the EU wants access. The EU has a market to which the UK fishing industry needs access. So the logic is, there must be a way to find a deal within that, » he told Xinhua.
Britain recently announced that it had formally signed a trade agreement with Japan – marking Britain’s first major post-Brexit deal.
For Prof Phinnemore, with the deal being similar to the pre-existing one between Japan and the EU, there does not seem to be a « radical departure » from what is already in place.
« Obviously, it demonstrates the fact that the UK can conclude negotiations with a third country. But equally, it’s probably a reflection of the fact that Japan wants to have as much continuity as possible. It’s not as though the UK has secured a deal with a partner with which the EU does not have a trade agreement, and with which the UK would not have had a trade agreement if it had remained an EU member state, » Prof Phinnemore said.