Facing a brutal timetable to negotiate a comprehensive deal on their future relations by the end of the year, Brussels and London are weighing up a more slice-by-slice approach to talks.
While both sides insist a traditional, all-inclusive trade pact is still possible, they are now also considering more piecemeal tactics to avoid a catastrophic cliff-edge of tariffs and trade barriers from January 2021.
To the EU side, that means a potential Plan B of more sector-by-sector agreements, while the British are mapping out the attractions of negotiations that move forward by incrementally locking in wins, rather than waiting for one last-minute finale.
“We are very clear we want to get on in terms of negotiating a deal and so maybe the approach of nothing is agreed until everything is agreed which characterized previous negotiations is not an approach that we are interested in taking,” a British government spokesperson said during a briefing in London while U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was meeting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” is a long-standing mantra for EU trade negotiators, who have never faced such a tight political deadline on a major pact as December 31, when the transition period runs out — and which Johnson says he won’t extend.
“We might want to take a reconsideration of the time frame before July 1.” — Ursula von der Leyen
The logic of keeping all the elements on the table in talks is that both parties will be able to play to their strengths — one side could be strong in farming, the other in chemicals,