Trade negotiators from Britain and the EU embark on a fourth round of post-Brexit negotiations Tuesday but no-one in London or Brussels expects a breakthrough.
Instead, once the latest cross-Channel video conferences are over, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen will meet to decide how to proceed.
A “high-level” June meeting to take stock of the talks was already foreseen in the political declaration signed by both parties alongside the divorce accord.
But it may take on more urgency now, as talks between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost have revealed stark differences in approach.
Britain is not now expected to ask for any extension to the post-Brexit transition and so is on track to leave the single market and EU customs union on December 31.
If no trade deal is in place by then, experts predict severe disruption to businesses already reeling from a coronavirus pandemic that no-one expected when Britain voted to leave the union in June 2016.
Barnier, the Brussels veteran and former French minister tasked by the remaining 27 EU members with negotiating an orderly Brexit, said last week that the talks would be telling.
“I expect that I will find out whether the United Kingdom wants to leave the single market at the end of this year with an agreement or without one,” he told German radio.
Later, he told British weekly The Sunday Times that he and Frost have a “joint responsibility” to head off disaster.
“If we don’t get an agreement then that will have even more consequences. And then of course those will be added to the already very serious consequences of the coronavirus crisis,” he said.
But despite the urgency of the matter, there is still profound disagreement in how London and Brussels want to approach the search for new arrangements to oversee trade and cooperation.
Barnier has been given a mandate to seek an ambitious overarching agreement to oversee a so-called “level playing field” in manufacturing, labour and environmental standards.
This would give British firms access to most — but not all — of the benefits of the single market, without exposing their European rivals to attempts to undercut standards.
Frost and Johnson, however, say they only want a simple trade deal that would preserve UK sovereignty while allowing the vast majority of trade to remain tariff-free.
And, rather than placing this under the aegis of a unique EU-UK pact, they want to pursue a series of deals in separate sectors such as trade, fisheries, aviation and energy.
“We expect the round to be constructive and to keep the process on track ahead of the high-level meeting later this month,” a British spokesman said.
“However, as David set out to Parliament last week, it’s clear that the EU needs to evolve its position to reach an agreement,” he warned.
Barnier has complained that Frost’s more aggressive “tone” in pushing the British case in an exchange of open letters last month could disrupt progress.
And Brussels officials are annoyed that Britain has, in their eyes, backtracked on a written agreement to accept level-playing-field guarantees as part of a future trade deal.
But London insists the draft UK proposals meet these commitments, and complains that the EU is refusing to offer the same kind of trade deal it signed with sovereign powers like Canada or Singapore.
“A balanced solution is needed which reflects the political realities on both sides, and we will continue to make sure our position is understood,” the spokesman said.
“We won’t agree to any EU demands for us to give up our rights as an independent state.”
With the sides camped out in conflicting visions of the way ahead, few experts expect this week’s talks — specialist committees Tuesday to Thursday, then Frost and Barnier on Friday — to bear fruit.
But with so much at stake, nobody expects the talks to break down irretrievably either.
“I don’t think much will happen in these talks,” said Anand Menon, academic and director of the think-tank UK in a Changing Europe.
“Barnier and Frost are saying the same thing, a no deal is perfectly plausible. At the same time, both sides would prefer to have a deal,” he said.
Neither does he expect Johnson and von der Leyen to achieve much by the end of the month.
“They will probably say that both sides are willing to continue talking,” he told AFP. “If we get a compromise it will come very late in the talks, in the autumn.”
Reporting and photos: AFP
Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) holds its 34th Annual General Meeting
The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) held its 34th Annual General Meeting at Kurumba Maldives today, with a total of 100 members in attendance.
The day’s events began with a welcome address from the Chairman of MATI, Mr. Mohamed Umar, who also presided over the session. The agenda included an address from the Secretary General, Mr. Ahmed Nazeer, the review and approval of the minutes of the 33rd AGM, the review and adoption of the Annual Report and Financial Reports for 2023, the approval of the 2024 budget, the appointment of auditors for 2024, the welcoming of new members and election of executive board members to the two vacant positions (by-election).
In the member discussion session, the following topics were covered: the Government’s aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2023 and renewable energy generation in the Tourism Industry, new terminal of Velana International Airport and developments, employment challenges, the Industrial Relations Act and trade unions, environmental conservation and the significance of creating and executing efficient management plans for protected areas like the South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA).
Following the official proceedings, the Minister of Tourism Hon. Ibrahim Faisal and the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Hon. Mohamed Saeed joined the forum. The Ministers provided remarks and engaged in a Member Q&A session. This session provided members with the chance to directly engage with the Ministers and delve into crucial industry topics. The queries focused on the Economic Outlook, forthcoming development plans and immediate challenges and issues affecting the Tourism Industry.
A video presentation was also showcased that delved into the extensive work undertaken by MATI in 2023. The video also touched upon the Tourism Industry’s performance over the past 5 years, as well as the current and projected human resource capacity of the sector.
In his closing remarks, the Secretary General highlighted the importance of collaborative efforts in addressing industry challenges and called for greater unison amongst industry stakeholders, ending with an acknowledgement of the promising start to the year in terms of arrivals.
Executive Board Members elected to the 2 vacant positions (by-election):
- Ibrahim Shareef, CEO and Managing Director of Maldives Airports Company Limited
- Renato De Olivera, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands and representative of Marriott International
Unlocking power of travel storytelling at Travel Creators Exchange 2024
Join us for the Travel Creators Exchange 2024, taking place on February 1, 2024, at the Hotel Jen in Male’, Maldives.
This dynamic event provides a platform for networking and collaboration among Maldives-based travel creators, fostering connections, idea-sharing, and the establishment of lasting partnerships to expand opportunities and monetise content.
Our lineup of distinguished speakers includes:
- Zihuny Rasheed, Deputy Managing Director of MMPRC, will present on “Power of Digital Storytelling: Collaborative Strategies for Destination Promotion.” MMPRC actively markets the Maldives globally, utilising a comprehensive approach that includes travel trade shows, roadshows, digital marketing, and more.
- Amjad Thaufeeg, Commercial Director of Kuda Villingili Maldives Resort, brings over 23 years of hospitality industry experience. He will discuss “The Role of Content in Tourism Marketing,” drawing on expertise in revenue, customer service, sales & marketing, and human capital development.
- Suresh Dissanayake, Assistant Vice President of Sales & Marketing of Heritance Aarah & Adaaran Resorts, with nearly two decades of experience, will shed light on “What does a Sales and Marketing Director Do?” He brings extensive luxury hospitality experience and a proven track record in sales, distribution, and marketing.
- Vishal Amir Ahmed, a versatile cinematographer and content creator, will explore “Who is a Content Creator.” Currently associated with Various Arts Studio, he specialises in providing multimedia solutions to various clients.
Organised by Maldives Insider, Maldives Virtual Tour, Travel Trade Maldives, and Hotelier Maldives, this collaborative effort aims to empower Maldives-based travel content creators and elevate the Maldives as a premier destination for captivating travel storytelling.
Acclaimed contemporary artist Ana Pušica explores perpetuality and community at Patina Maldives
Ana Pušica Kramer, an internationally acclaimed contemporary artist, joins Patina Maldives for an exclusive art residency in the now infamous Fari Art Atelier. From January 22 to February 22, 2024, Ana Pušica will grace the shores of the Fari Islands, weaving a vibrant narrative of colour and emotion across her larger than-life canvases.
Her artistry transcends boundaries, melding abstraction and figuration into awe-inspiring masterpieces. Having exhibited globally, from New York to Beijing, Ana’s paintings are a physical, intuitive act rooted in movement. Described as a “beautiful fluorescent thunderstorm,” Ana’s art explores light and colour, capturing the energy of life itself.
The Fari Art Atelier which has previously hosted the likes of Daniel Arsham, Chris Stamp and David Nott, will be transformed into Ana’s studio and gallery showcasing her enthralling artworks—a mesmerising journey through poetry, memory, and the vibrant interplay of colour. Guests at Patina are invited to delve into Ana’s world, where each stroke reveals layers of meaning, evoking sensations of intense lightness and boundless interpretation.
At Patina Maldives, Ana will immerse herself in a month-long residency, inviting the Patina Malidves community or guests and team to witness her artistic fervour firsthand. Guests will have the rare opportunity not only to observe her creative process but also to engage with and create art alongside this luminary.
Experience artistry at its most exclusive
Experience Ana’s captivating exploration of colour and emotion in her spellbinding artworks displayed at the Fari Atelier.
Art Workshops: Message in a Bottle
As part of a collaborative artwork, Ana invites Patina guests to participate in short workshops, actively contributing to the creation of a permanent installation at Patina Maldives.
Open Studio Session
Join Ana for an exclusive open studio session, offering guests a behind the-scenes look at her creative process.
Ana Pušica residency package
Discover a world where creativity knows no bounds as Ana Pušica, the maestro of contemporary art, transforms Patina Maldives into an immersive canvas of inspiration.
Book now to secure your experience.
For more information and reservations, please visit Patina Maldives or contact
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