Brussels told EU leaders that a no-deal outcome seemed the most likely scenario for trade talks with the UK, after Boris Johnson’s visit to the Belgian capital earlier this week resulted in not resulted in a breakthrough.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said at a European summit in Brussels on Friday morning that she did not want to give a percentage, but that there was a “higher probability” that the negotiations would fail rather than succeed, according to informed people. on the presentation.
His grim assessment echoed Mr Johnson’s warning on Thursday that there was a “strong possibility” that the negotiations would fail because Brussels wanted to keep the country “locked in the orbit of the EU”.
Although both sides have given negotiators until Sunday to try to achieve a breakthrough, an ally of Mr Johnson said: “They are not moving at all. Damn it.
Failure of trade negotiations would lead to economic upheaval, including the introduction of tariffs on EU-UK trade after the end of the Brexi transition period on December 31, which would deal a particularly hard blow to agriculture. But it is an outcome that both sides say they are prepared to accept if a compromise cannot be found on the central sticking point of how to ensure fair competition between companies.
The EU insisted that any agreement must guarantee a “a level playing field»Which lasts over time. He proposed that either party be allowed to reduce access to their market if EU and UK rules in areas such as environmental law diverge to such an extent that the companies are at a disadvantage compared to the competition.
But Mr Johnson said the plans amounted to an attempt by Brussels to force the UK to continue to follow its regulations.
“They brought back the idea of equivalence between the UK and the EU,” the Prime Minister said in a Downing Street TV clip on Thursday. “Basically it means that whatever new laws they introduce we will have to follow or else we will be faced with sanctions, sanctions, tariffs, etc.
An EU official said that Ms von der Leyen made it clear at the summit that the situation was difficult and that “the main obstacles remained”. The commission chair was briefing leaders at her dinner on Wednesday with Mr Johnson, a meeting which it was hoped would give new impetus to the discussions.
She said negotiations would resume today in Brussels between EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost and that the two sides would judge by Sunday whether a deal was possible.
EU leaders spent just a few minutes on Brexit at their meeting, without discussion after Ms von der Leyen’s presentation. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other heads of government have spent the night debating the bloc’s future climate policy after Poland raised objections to new targets.
The summit, which began on Thursday, is the last leaders’ meeting scheduled for 2020, with issues such as euro area reform, the EU budget and future relations with Turkey also on the agenda. .