The UK and the EU are continuing to negotiate a Brexit trade pact at high pressure. The talks remain difficult, however, as was heard from negotiating circles on Saturday evening. “The most likely result” is currently a no deal, it said. “We will turn every stone to bring about a deal.” But there are still “significant open questions” about fishing and subsidies. “Negotiations continue, but we are still far apart.”
The pressure is great, because the European Parliament has set a final deadline of late Sunday evening. By then, a completed commercial contract must be available, because otherwise the MPs would not have enough time to examine. EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned on Friday that there were only “a few hours” left for an agreement. However, the negotiators had previously broken several deadlines. Most recently it was said, especially in London, that the only deadline was December 31st. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly expressed skepticism that both sides will still reach an agreement.
Observers of the tough negotiations reported on Twitter that the EU could take a step on London on the contentious issue of fisheries. Barnier is said to have offered that the Community would repay the British 25 percent of the value of the fish EU fishermen catch in British waters. That would be significantly more than has been discussed so far – but not nearly as much as London is demanding. A European fishermen’s association warned that the EU should not deceive the industry.
Both sides are also preparing in the event that the negotiations fail and tariffs and other trade barriers between Great Britain and the EU come into force on January 1, 2021. Then a transition phase ends. Great Britain left the EU at the end of January, but will not leave the EU internal market and the customs union until the end of the year.
The British government was poorly prepared, however, criticized the Brexit Committee of Parliament in London. Decisions were made “too late” and communication with companies was “at best patchy”, according to a report published in London on Saturday. The police could be forced to use “slower and more cumbersome” systems – so it was “unlikely” that an agreement replacing the European arrest warrant would be in place in time.
On Friday the European Parliament voted for emergency measures in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This involves plans for the areas of fishing, air safety, and air and road traffic.
The British industry association CBI urged both sides to come to an agreement. An agreement would greatly improve the economic prospects across Europe. “Courageous steps” are now necessary.
On the highways in the direction of the important port of Dover on the English Channel and the Eurotunnels, trucks jammed for kilometers on Saturday. The reasons are the Christmas business and the high demand for medical goods in the corona pandemic, but also the increase in many stocks before the end of the Brexit transition phase. Trade associations have been criticizing clogged ports and high freight prices for weeks. Ships have already been turned away in some ports because there was no space to unload cargo.