Post-Brexit trade negotiations are slipping, but the two parties are increasing the number of meetings to reach a compromise. On the eve of a meeting between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the United Kingdom and the European Union have not yet succeeded in reaching an agreement at the end of their ninth round of negotiations, the last scheduled. as is.
London on Friday returned to Brussels the responsibility of making concessions to unblock post-Brexit trade negotiations and avoid a “no deal” on January 1, on the eve of a meeting between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen. Time is running out because the two parties agree on one point: a compromise must be found this month to be implemented early next year, in time to avoid a sudden breakdown in their exchanges.
London awaits concessions from Brussels
“I hope that we will come to an agreement, it depends on our friends,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying that there remains “every chance” to achieve it despite persistent differences, if “our friends and partners (show) common sense ”. The British negotiator David Frost warned the EU that concessions would be essential to reach a compromise, in particular on fishing and the conditions of fair competition.
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He said he was “worried” about the short time available to overcome these differences before the European Council on October 15, a deadline set by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Europeans have given themselves until the end of October. “We are running out of time”, confirmed the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, proposing for her part “to intensify the negotiations”.
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She is due to meet on Saturday afternoon by videoconference with Boris Johnson to take stock of the negotiations and discuss “the next steps”. “We need to hear at the highest level that Johnson wants a ‘deal'”, said a European source, while “serious differences on subjects of major importance for the European Union” persist, according to the negotiator European Michel Barnier. The UK left the EU on January 31, but continues to apply EU rules until December 31. In the absence of a trade agreement by that date, a sudden break in trade would further shake up economies already weakened by the new coronavirus pandemic.
The next decisive days
“The next few days” will be decisive, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will meet Michel Barnier on Monday in Berlin. “As long as the negotiations continue, I am optimistic.” According to Michel 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 see the emergence of a deregulated economy on the other side of the Channel that would compete with it unfairly.
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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 issue of fishing is very difficult,” conceded Ursula von der Leyen, rejecting an agreement “at any cost”.
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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. While talks are struggling, Brussels on Thursday launched infringement proceedings against the United Kingdom, due to its bill that calls into question some of the commitments made in the treaty governing its departure. The text, approved by British MPs and which must be considered by the Lords, returns to 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.