The lunch that could make or break Brexit


On Monday, December 4, British Prime Minister Theresa May will sit down to what could be the most expensive meal in history. Your lunch date will be Jean-Claude Juncker, who as president of the European Commission has a powerful role in determining progress towards a Brexit agreement. On seasonal dishes and vintage wines in Brussels, May will seek to persuade Juncker to initiate discussions on a new trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as to allow a two-year transition period to help British companies to plan and adjust Juncker will wait for May to recover the account: the EU is demanding that the UK pay an exit bill of € 60 billion to leave the block.

For May, the pressure for the December 4 meeting is intense. If the talks between the British and the EU negotiators are going well, the dream of a successful agreement with Brexit will continue. If they go wrong, the chances of a chaotic break without a new trade agreement will increase dramatically, as time begins to run out for meaningful conversations. Under the schedule prescribed by Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, the United Kingdom has until March 2019 to obtain a new agreement ratified by Parliament and all EU Member States.

The EU has granted May until December 4 to present a comprehensive offer on a divorce agreement that will satisfy Juncker, his negotiator Michel Barnier and, most significantly, the leaders of some of the states most influential in the EU, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. They want a strong promise that the UK will pay what it owes the block when it leaves, will protect the rights of EU citizens living in Britain after Brexit and will guarantee measures to secure the land border between the north and the south. South of the island of Ireland is still mild. Only when sufficient progress has been made on these issues of separation will the EU allow negotiations to begin on future UK trade relations with the bloc.

May has secured the support of his cabinet to increase the offer in the so-called divorce law. (Unconfirmed reports in the British media indicate that the figure is € 45 billion to € 55 billion.) Your biggest headache now is what to do with the Irish border . The border between the Republic of Ireland, a member state of the EU and Northern Ireland, which will leave the block as part of the United Kingdom, will become the potentially potentially more porous external limit of the EU after Brexit.

With support From the rest of the EU, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar demands written guarantees that the withdrawal of the UK bloc will not lead to the return of checkpoints that would evoke decades of sectarian violence among Catholics and Protestants. Memories of the conflict are still fresh and any renewal of hostilities could trigger the collapse of the semi-autonomous government in Northern Ireland, which is already in a precarious state.

At this critical stage, Ireland has a veto and could avoid negotiations to move from divorce to trade. May officials are trying to draft a text that allows the Irish to claim a victory while differing a final agreement on the border issue until the terms of a new trade and customs agreement with the EU are clear.

At the same time, the British negotiators are working frantically to try to tie the loose ends with their European counterparts before lunch on December 4. May's chief negotiator of Brexit, David Davis, will most likely travel early to the Belgian capital to meet with Barnier. For Britain, the hope is that their meeting will result in a statement summarizing the progress made in the talks so far, setting the stage for a May-Juncker friendly meal and a statement that negotiations can move forward. If everything goes according to plan, the United Kingdom will formally get the green light to begin negotiations on transition agreements and future trade ties with the bloc at a summit of European leaders scheduled for December 14 and 15.

Persistent uncertainty has not been good for the British economy. In its latest series of predictions, launched on November 22, the Office of Budgetary Responsibility has growth in the United Kingdom that does not reach 2 percent each year until 2021. The non-partisan oversight agency also halved its estimate of productivity gains over the next five years. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is even more pessimistic: in the November 28 issue of its publication Economic Outlook, growth of 1.5 percent this year will be reduced to 1.2 percent in 2018, which would be the worst performance of Great Britain since the financial crisis. "The biggest risk to the economy is the uncertainty surrounding the exit process of the European Union, which could curb private spending more than expected," says the report.

A meeting between UK Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on December 4 could lay the groundwork for the start of trade talks.

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