Brussels, 29 July 2020 - Little progress has been done so far towards a final agreement as "the UK continued to request single market-like benefits", said EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in the press conference at the end of the meeting in London with his British  counterpart.

"There is still no progress on two essential topics of our economic partnership. First, there must be robust guarantees for a level playing field – including on State aid and standards – to ensure open and fair competition among our businesses, also over time. This is a core interest for all 27 Member States – and in my view also for the UK.

Second - goes on Barnier - we have to agree on a balanced, sustainable and long-term solution for fisheries, with the interests of all Member States concerned in mind, and not least the many men and women whose livelihoods depend on it on both sides".

EU Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier at a press conference in London, 23 July 2020  -  Copyright © Europe House

The economic hurdle holds the negotiations back, far away from the finish line, and the race is heading to the bottom: deregulation and unfair competition are the goals hidden below the table. After all these are the two traditional pillars of British foreign policy where the competitive advantage and the zero sum game are applied 'versus' all, paradoxically even to the EU, the supra-national common space born from the ashes of the countries reduced to zero by the violent game of supremacy.  

And here comes into place the issue of the level playing field: "The EU has always insisted that an economic partnership with the UK must include robust level playing field rules and an equitable agreement on fisheries. This means that, by its current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely"; is the intimation from Barnier.

On the UK side David Frost does not seem to be that much concerned about a no-deal scenario: “When the next round of negotiations begins there will be not much more than four months left until the end of the transition period - he said in a statement the same day - Although we will continue energetically to seek an agreement with the EU, we must face the possibility that one will not be reached, and we must therefore continue preparing for all possible scenarios for the end of the transition period at the end of this year".

It is not clear to us all if the Tories led British government has made the decision to head towards a no-deal based on the politics of deregulation and unfair competition. This would anyway prevent the UK to export to the EU as products will have to meet the standards. 

One more informal meeting this week in London and then the next round of negotiations on 17 August; then will be clear which route the UK actually wants to take: whether to run against the wind or adjust the sails. 

Justine de Braeme

With no progress made so far, have Tories decided to 

go for no-deal without a mandate?

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