British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is traveling to Brussels for crisis talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen aimed at unblocking stalled negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal.
The couple’s reunion – set to be held at 6:00 p.m. GMT on Wednesday, over dinner – comes amid growing fears of a chaotic no-deal final to the five-year Brexit saga.
The United Kingdom leaves the orbit of the European Union on December 31; The British voted to leave the bloc on June 23, 2016.
The tense talks between the two sides over a free trade agreement have hit a stumbling block in recent days due to continued division over three key issues – fishing rights, competition rules and the governance of any deal. .
A no-deal outcome would likely lead to economic impact for both sides, major disruption at border points between the UK and the EU and political acrimony.
Speaking to the British Parliament on Wednesday, hours before his meeting with von der Leyen, Johnson said a “good deal” remained “to be done”.
However, he also told MPs that the UK will ‘prosper mightily’ under any circumstances and ‘seize every opportunity that Brexit offers’.
Counting the cost of Brexit
But the leader of the main opposition Labor Party, Keir Starmer, accused Johnson, who won a landslide election victory a year ago by promising to ‘make Brexit’, of ‘procrastinating between the deal we have need and the compromise he knows his backbenchers will not let him do “.
MPs backing Brexit from Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party have said he must ensure the UK remains sovereign, sets its own rules and maintains control of its rich fishing waters in case a trade deal is struck. signed with the EU.
“I sincerely hope this is the usual Prime Minister’s boast… and a deal comes at the last minute,” Starmer said. “But for some people and their jobs, it’s already too late.”
The UK’s Office of Fiscal Responsibility (OBR) has forecast a 4% drop in long-term national economic output due to the UK’s departure from the EU, even if a free trade deal is struck.
Failure to agree on such a deal would wipe out an additional two percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), pushing up inflation, unemployment and government borrowing, the agency said earlier this month. -this.
Merkel dampens hopes of a deal
On the EU side, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dampened hopes of a quick end to post-Brexit negotiations on Wednesday.
Merkel told the German parliament that there was “still a chance to reach an agreement”, but stressed that the EU would not compromise on its basic principles.
“One thing is clear: the integrity of the internal market (of the EU) must be preserved,” she said.
“If there are conditions on the British side that we cannot accept, we are prepared to go down a path which is without an exit deal.”
His comments came after Michael Gove, a top minister in the Johnson government responsible for Brexit issues, told Britain’s Times Radio that the EU would have to compromise if it wanted a deal.
“The EU must move,” he said.
The UK officially left the EU in January, but has since been in a transition period where it remains in the EU’s single market and customs union, meaning that rules on trade, travel and business have remained the same.
This all ends at the end of this year, and if by then there is no deal, the pair’s trading relationship will default to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules at from the beginning of 2021.
WTO rules would see financial tariffs, quotas and other regulatory barriers come into play, potentially affecting hundreds of billions of pounds in annual trade between the UK and the EU.
Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from London, said there still appeared to be “insurmountable problems neither side can really overcome”, with time to avoid such a no-deal scenario.
“We know that great progress was made on Tuesday on a separate agreement on how trade would continue between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” he said. “But all the the friction points are not gone.