Brexit update: Progress or no progress? That is (still) the question

Brexit | | MIC Customs Solutions |

The animosity between Britain and France is another factor holding up Brexit, while the ECJ issue rumbles on.

Another month has passed and still the war of attrition on Brexit continues, with the season of goodwill failing to provide much in the way of benevolence between Britain and France.

Just last week, UK Brexit negotiator Sir David Frost held a meeting with European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and said he hoped they would make "worthwhile progress" before Christmas.

This prompted a wave of speculation in Europe in particular that the UK was about to move from its firm stance on the European Court of Justice, which it had not seemed willing to do before. Irish broadcaster RTÉ also quoted a 'senior official' as saying this was "an important shift".

Even Lord Frost himself "underlined the need for movement on all the difficult issues", which included the ECJ, adding: "We will not find a durable solution that does not deal with all these problems."

However, mere days later, the raised hopes were dashed when Lord Frost said in a statement that an agreement has not been reached, despite some limited movement on major sticking points.

Meanwhile, things started to escalate again in Northern France after the EU set a deadline for Britain to release more fishing licences. Although Britain did offer something of an olive branch by allowing some extra paperwork to be released, the 83 additional operating licences was deemed not enough by French fishermen.

As a result, fishers in Brittany have said a planned blockade of Calais will go ahead on December 23rd 2021, threatening supplies of goods sent by UK exporters just in time for the last-minute Christmas rush.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has understandably been a distraction for Brexit talks this month, particularly with the emergence of the potentially deadly Omicron variant that is now posing the threat of restrictive measures being imposed once again in Britain.

However, the time will surely come soon that decisions must be made over what both sides are going to do to move things forward and break the stalemate. Yet at present, France and the UK especially cannot seem to find any common ground.

This was worsened during 2021 with the row over the migrant crisis and the offence caused by the Aukus alliance that snubbed France in favor of Australia and the US.

Perhaps a major problem is that the heads of states in both nations feel a need to save face after each making Brexit a critical part of their election campaigns. Boris Johnson promised to use Brexit to make Britain great again, something he no doubt is loath to go back on, while Emmanuel Macron pledged alliance with the EU and therefore probably feels reluctant to give the UK any ground.

And all this is on top of the continuing debacle over Article 16, which experts are still warning could cause serious breakdowns of trust between the UK, Northern Ireland and the EU if it is triggered.

So, progress or no progress? As the year draws to a close, that arguably remains as much of a question as it did last year.