Last warm-up before the hard part of the final Brexit negotiations. The Europeans called on Friday, October 2, to “Intensify” talks with the UK to reach a post-Brexit trade deal, but stressed that “Serious differences” persisted on several “Subjects of major importance”, raising fears of failure at the end of the year.
” We are run out of time “, expressed alarm on Friday the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. “We should intensify the negotiations. It’s worth the hard work. “
The German leader is due to meet by videoconference on Saturday afternoon with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to make a “Balance sheet of negotiations” and discuss “Next steps”. “We need to hear at the highest level that Johnson wants a deal”, said a European source.
The latter ruled that it was up to Europeans to “To use common sense” to reach a commercial agreement in order to avoid a “no deal” at 1er January. In an interview with the BBC, the Conservative leader estimated that there remained “Every chance of reaching an agreement” despite persistent differences. “It is up to our friends and partners to use common sense”, he continued.
This exchange takes place at the end of a week of trade talks in Brussels, led by European negotiator, Michel Barnier, and his British counterpart, David Frost, during which the Frenchman observed “The persistence of serious differences on subjects of major importance for the European Union”.
“To reach an agreement, these differences must imperatively be overcome in the coming weeks”, he warned. Mr. Frost told him “Worried” lack of time to reach an agreement. ” The next days “ will be decisive, for her part estimated German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will meet Barnier on Monday in Berlin. “As long as the negotiations continue, I am optimistic”, did she say.
The UK left the EU on January 31, but it continues to apply EU rules until December 31, a transition period during which London and Brussels hope to agree on a trade deal governing their future relationship.
Without agreement, a sudden break in trade would further undermine economies already weakened by the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus.
The talks are taking place on a particularly tight schedule: Boris Johnson has set a date of October 15, the day of a European summit in Brussels, for an agreement. The Europeans have given themselves until the end of October.
Obstacle on several sensitive subjects
“We are late, not in the home stretch where we should be to be on time”, estimates the European source. According to Mr. Barnier, the talks are still stumbling on several sensitive subjects, such as the way in which the disputes will be settled in the future agreement, or the guarantees required by the EU, in particular in terms of State aid, to avoid to see the emergence of a deregulated economy on the other side of the Channel that would compete with it unfairly.
An agreement must also be found on fishing, a particularly explosive subject for a handful of Member States (France, Spain, Denmark, Belgium or the Netherlands), which hope for a status quo in the access of their fishermen to British waters. , very full of fish. “The question of fishing is very difficult”, conceded Mme von der Leyen, rejecting a deal ” whatever the price “.
On the British side, the negotiators hope to quickly reach the famous “tunnel” of negotiations, a moment when an agreement seems close enough to engage in continuous closed-door talks. But “There is no sign that we are there! “, tempered a second European source. “You have to calm down a bit with the tunnel! “
While talks are struggling, Brussels launched infringement proceedings against the UK on Thursday over its bill that calls into question some of the treaty commitments surrounding its departure.
The text, approved by British MPs and which must be considered by the Lords, revisits provisions for the British province of Northern Ireland, planned to avoid the return of a border with the Republic of Ireland, a guardrail considered essential to the maintenance of peace on the island. EU proceedings may end in the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which may impose fines and periodic penalty payments.