It is impossible to answer the above question in detail without sitting at the negotiation table throughout or been privy to the negotiation’s documentation, but the main general reasons why more progress has not been made are detailed below.
It is obvious that Germany wants the UK to remain in the EU because of the UK has one of the world’s leading financial centres and because the UK is the largest export for many countries in the EU. Further the UK is a significant subscriber to the EU.
When the referendum results were known Germany knew it has a critical problem on its hands. But it also knew, that two other EU countries, has previously voted to leave and both of them had been persuaded to remain EU. Germany is determined to keep the UK in the EU if it possibly can.
Germany had expected that as soon as the referendum results were known, that the country and the remainers would consolidate behind the Brexit victory. To its surprise, it has observed a significant group which has ignored the referendum result and has campaigned to overturn the referendum result throughout the intervening period.
In the author’s opinion, this is why the EU’s negotiating team have been so difficult, because they believe, that it is still possible that they could persuade the UK to remain within the EU. There is little doubt that the EU requires the UK more than the UK requires them. If a satisfactory agreement is not reached it would be catastrophic for the EU due to its own financial problems. If the UK left without an agreement, it would be extremely difficult for the country, because it is highly likely that the EU would trigger a world recession, which could be 4 to 6 times the size of the Lehman Bros 2007 recession.
Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta are all in serious financial difficulty. Italy which has one of the largest EU economies has had zero GBP growth since 2008. Its balance of payments have been negative for 10 years. It has liabilities of €2.2 trillion. It owes the European Central bank over €400 billion. Its banks collectively have a non-performing loans which equate to 15% of their outstanding loans. At this time the AfD in Germany which is in coalition with Angela Merkel, is pressing her to stop any further loans being made to Italy. It is likely within the next 18 months that Italy could revert to the lira and default on their outstanding liabilities. If that happens it would trigger a new massive recession.
Since the referendum, a very high proportion of the reports highlight the UK’s lack of progress, the difficulties which the UK will face, and the EU business which we will lose as a result of BREXIT. There are regular reports that the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal or that our terms will be disastrous for the country.
There have been very few comments in Parliament, or articles in the press, on television or in the social media which report on difficulties which the EU would face if an amicable agreement is not made between the UK and the EU or which outlines the financial crisis which faces the EU.
Many reporters rely upon off the record briefings. It is easy for a politician to give such briefings because there will be no official report of the briefing which can be referred to later. Reporters often treat off the record briefings to be factual but they seldom are reliable.
Official records of meetings, agreements and disagreements very much more important and give a clear indication of the true situation. They are the subject of the official records.
It is known that both sides agree that there should be a trade agreement as well as security and policing areas. Both sides want an agreement re Ireland. Both sides say each other’s citizens should be able to remain where they are and should continue with the rights they have had to date. Agreement is close or in place for fisheries, agriculture etc. although there is a difference of opinion over policing and enforcement of EU rules.
There are, of course, issues still to be agreed.
Despite the Remainers, reporters etc suggest that about 85% has been agreed and both sided have indicated on paper that they are both working towards an agreement.
It is well known that the EU always run to the last minute. They hope that by doing so the UK will continue to give concessions.
In the past the boundaries and customs were a significant problem. Now however those problems can be resolved by modern technology. That modern technology is able to disclose the source of the goods in transit, which vehicle is carrying it and where the goods are being carried to. Therefore, a physical border is actually no longer required.
Also, the above can be proved, because the EU has agreements with countries which are not in the EU but have borders connecting with the EU. Arrangements have already been made with those countries for their goods to pass across the border without interruption. If it can be done for Czechoslovakia, Switzerland Norway et cetera then it can be done for the UK.
As far as movement of people is concerned there is no reason whatsoever why we should not continue to use the border controls which have been in place to identify and record people whether from the UK, the EU or elsewhere when they cross the border into the UK or out of the UK from or to the EU. There is no reason why the current arrangements should not be continued.
There is always a possibility that through stupidity or lack of cooperation and an agreement to agree is not achieved, however, in that case it is in the best interests of both the UK and the EU to come to an agreement which will enable them to continue to work with each other. Not to reach that agreement would be extremely painful for both parties but the EU would suffer more than the UK because they export more to the UK and we export to them.
We are currently working towards a wise workable repatriation of political power from the EU to the UK
The negotiators on both sides know and understand that the UK has substantial financial capabilities The EU does not have the technical ability, the international financial contacts or the banking, commercial and insurance capacity to repatriate all the 85% of their transactions which are currently managed through London. Some transactions will move to the EU but the UK will also receive new instructions from around the world which will increase its international financial, legal and professional business.
There will surely be some difficulties initially, but they will be resolved within a short period of time to the benefit of both sides..
There are concerns in the EU that UK industrial companies will no longer use the EU’s commercial regulations. This is likely to be wrong because the UK companies are already using the EU regulations and they would prefer to continue with them to avoid disruption.
Currently the UK imports 63% of its total imports from EU and sends 45% of its exports to EU.
If the worst comes to the worst, what will happen if the UK crashes out of EU?
We will use the international trade rules, they will be more expensive for both sides. They will work, but it will not the preferable solution. But there will be no reason why both sides should not reopen the negotiations after the 30t March 2019.
If we do crash out, our problem would be to recreate all the rules, which we would require to trade with the EU. We have delegated those skills to the EU over the last 40 years. The problem is our capacity to develop the regulations, although the provisional agreements should resolve most of the problem.
We have an interest to keep the EU as friends, they are potentially a rich area with whom we wish to trade, but it will take time for them to overcome their difficulties..
When we leave the EU we will continue to work with the EU we will continue to buy from them. We will become the EU’s largest export market which they want to keep and expand, but we start to take a different road which will involve trade agreements from around the world and our commonwealth as well as trading with the EU.