The long and winding Brexit road begins to approach its end and it could be said that at the moment it crosses a dangerous area of cliffs and runs to the limit, how could it be otherwise when it comes to relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Michael Gove, Chief of Staff of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, traveled to Brussels on Monday to meet with the Vice President of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic and try to put out the fire that has caused the so-called Internal Market Law, the legal draft presented by the Johnson's government in the British Parliament in early September.
After the appointment of the so-called Joint Committee, the body that supervises the divorce process, both parties found two things: that the pieces had barely moved from the board and that time continued to run against them.
"I have reiterated the request of the EU that the controversial articles of the draft of the Internal Market Law be withdrawn before the end of September", said the vice president of the Community Executive in a subsequent appearance.
To which Gove replied that the British position remained unchanged: "Those clauses will remain in the Law," he said, according to Reuters.
"Confidence is still broken," added Sefcovic, and will continue "as long as the controversial provisions are not withdrawn."
These articles, part of a draft still pending approval in the House of Commons, blow up the delicate balance woven around Northern Ireland and its complex peace process in the UK Withdrawal Agreement, somewhat which the EU considers unacceptable.
Both parties had difficulties in finding, in that agreement, a formula that would avoid the creation of a hard border between the two Ireland and at the same time preserve the integrity of the internal single market and prevent Northern Ireland from having a border with the United Kingdom.
Johnson's proposal violates, as one member of his team shamelessly acknowledged, "in a specific and very limited way" international legality.
According to Brussels, it violates commercial and competition rules already agreed;
and in turn puts at risk the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which stopped years of violence between Catholics and Protestants.
An uncertain period is now beginning in which the Commission could activate this Wednesday, the last day of September, the legal machinery to safeguard its interests.
“I have reminded the UK Government that the Withdrawal Agreement contains various legal mechanisms and means to deal with the violation of the obligations of the text,” Sefcovic assured.
How they will activate it and when exactly, has not been detailed.
But the Vice-President of the Commission warned: "The EU will not be shy about using them."
He added, in any case, that Brussels will not leave the negotiating table.
And that activating the default mechanisms does not mean that British negotiators have to shoot back to the islands through the Eurotunnel.
Time is running out, negotiators speed up
In fact, the only thing that Sefcovic and Gove agreed on was to continue negotiating at all costs, and to increase the talks between both parties and accelerate the pace of their negotiating teams, which this week meet in Brussels face to face under the baton of Frenchman Michel Barnier (on behalf of the EU) and British David Frost (on behalf of the United Kingdom), in what was to be the eleventh and final round of negotiations.
But with Brexit, you should never take it for granted that it will be the last.
With or without disputed items, the sand on the clock fades.
There is, according to optimistic estimates, just over a month to avoid the catastrophe.
The Withdrawal Agreement was signed after frantic negotiations almost a year ago;
It entered into force on February 1, and both banks of the English Channel then underwent a transitional period, until the end of 2020, to go down to the detail of its implementation in matters of trade, citizenship, fishing or security, to give some examples. .
The trade agreement is perhaps the most sensitive issue.
On the one hand, the Twenty-seven are looking for an agreement that prevents the United Kingdom from going from being a partner to a competitor, a kind of Singapore that competes with the EU unfairly.
But without an agreement, in the New Year, the neighbor would become any third country, without a privileged relationship and with tariffs on products.
With about 100 days to go until the end of the year, and with even less room for the parliaments in London and Strasbourg to read and ratify any agreement on the implementation of Brexit, Brussels and London face two decisive weeks of tug of war.
The negotiating teams are meeting until Friday in Brussels to try to cut the fringes of the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom.
Boris Johnson stated at the beginning of September that if there was no agreement by October 15, before the European summit of heads of State and Government that starts that day, it would be necessary to "accept it and turn the page."
That is to say: embrace failure.
In Brussels there are those who believe that it could be scratched until the first days of November.
That is the margin to try to find Johnson's pragmatic side, his non-ideological face, the one that would try to find a meeting point in the face of possible economic collapse: the lack of a trade agreement would be joined by an economy in free fall due to the pandemic, while a second wave, with the scythe already in hand, begins to knock on the door.