Johnson's Ultimatum to EU on Brexit Talks is 'Quite a Risk' for London, Professor Says

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Brexit  - Sputnik International
Britain’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, Sir David Frost, has said there needs to be "more realism" from Brussels about the UK's "status as an independent country". The comments from Frost come after the prime minister set a new deadline for a Brexit deal that is just five weeks away.

Dr Connal Parr, a Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University, believes the deadline set by the UK is a risk as it could antagonize Europe, a scenario that London would rather avoid.

Sputnik: Just how significant are these comments from Frost? Does the EU need to be more flexible and is there some truth in Sir David Frost's comments?

Connal Parr: I think it's more, to be honest with you, more of a statement of intent and a kind of initial negotiating ploy. I don't think that the EU is going to turn around suddenly and become very different. What I would say is that I think it's interesting that it is the UK flexing their muscles a bit ahead of the negotiations and you know how that kind of situation sometimes goes, that people are putting across their slightly more adversarial position at the start and then normally at the end of that process they negotiate back to some kind of a consensus; some kind of an agreement.

A motorist crosses over the border from the Irish Republic into Northern Ireland near the town of Jonesborough, Northern Ireland, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 - Sputnik International
Downing Street: UK Cannot Allow 'Damaging' Situation of Failing to Agree on N Irish Protocol With EU

But it's playing hardball initially, and it is a way of just a little warning shot being fired across the bow for the EU. What's interesting to me is that it's quite a risk.

It can also be a risk here because what was agreed was an agreement and an international treaty and for the UK to suddenly slightly withdraw from that and to show some signs that they're going to potentially rip that up as is going to antagonize people in Europe and obviously, the UK doesn't want that to go too sour and go south too soon, just in case they then get into a position where an agreement isn't possible in the middle of October.

Sputnik: At this point in time, following a growing mistrust from Brussels, how likely is a free trade deal between Britain and the EU?

Connal Parr: I think most people hope that there can be some kind of an agreement reached but the other thing I wanted to say too is that don't forget in this situation the so called Irish problem and Ireland itself because that also affects the potential free trade agreement that the UK would have with the United States. So because of this suggestion that the Northern Ireland protocol is going to be harmed by these comments or withdrawn, what you and your listeners will have seen is, that the government is secretly preparing a UK internal market bill which overrides the agreement and provides for a different set of circumstances for Northern Ireland than what was agreed with the European Union.

People walk underneath Union Jack flags and banners with a message reading Thank you #ourheroes as restrictions are eased following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Regent Street, London, Britain July 12, 2020 - Sputnik International
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What we also have now is people like Nancy Pelosi, and other Democrats like Richard Neal, and also a guy called Peter King who's a Republican Congressman, and all have said that in a Biden White House, certainly, but also possibly in the Trump White House that a UK, US Free Trade Agreement is going to be very hard, if in some way it seemed to be the UK's in edged on a very important EU agreement and has damaged the Northern Ireland protocol. So there's a very serious situation heading our way and which we all have to keep an eye on.

Sputnik: With just 4 or 5 weeks to secure deal before Britain walks away from talks what challenges do both parties need to overcome to ensure that the UK’s exit from the EU is clean break?

Connal Parr: Again, I think that while that deadline has been set, again, the UK Government has been involved in multiple negotiations over the years in places like Northern Ireland in which I think those negotiations are a kind of signpost rather than in a final break as you put it. I think that actually that there are a number of people in Whitehall and other places, who are going to be very careful and skeptical about being too finite. Your phrase clean break is an interesting one because is the clean break a kind of clean Brexit? Is that a no deal Brexit or is that a more compromised kind of Brexit, which, in terms of economically is going to help the UK economy withstand a very difficult time. Don't forget what we're heading into now. We're heading into potential second wave of COVID. Flu, winter, you want a no deal Brexit on top of that? I think the UK government is going to be a little more cautious, not just the sort of hotheads and the advisors telling Boris Johnson and others what they want from a sort of ideological perspective, there's going to be a number of different factors which are pushing back against that.

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