Sunday, December 3, 2023

Brexit trade talks resume in a ‘very difficult place’

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Brexit trade talks have resumed in Brussels, with British ministers warning they remain “in a very difficult position” after negotiations reached a deadlock on Friday.

David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, and Michel Barnier, his European counterpart, were tasked with solving the most difficult problem that remains: the question of a “level playing field” to ensure fair competition between the two. parties after the end of the Brexit transition period in December. 31.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed in a phone call on Saturday that eleventh hour pressure should be applied to get a deal on the line.

Tory Eurosceptic MPs have warned Mr Johnson not to accept any deal that undermines UK sovereignty, while France threatens to veto any deal that fails to meet its competition and trade demands. peach.

Barnier will report to ambassadors from the 27 member states on Monday morning on whether the new round of negotiations – led by a dozen officials from both sides – has made progress.

Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen will speak on Monday evening to see if there is a ‘landing zone’ for a deal.

After so many critical Brexit points in the past, sterling investors have bet on a positive outcome for the negotiations. The pound sterling traded at its strongest against the dollar since May 2018 on Friday, its upward movement fueled by the weaker dollar and rising expectations of a trade deal.

With negotiations at a sensitive stage, MPs will be called on Monday by Mr Johnson to reinstate controversial clauses in Britain’s Home Market Bill – removed by the House of Lords – that would allow ministers to override the Treaty of withdrawal from the EU signed by Great Britain last year in relation to Northern Ireland.

Such a move would be inflammatory, as would the introduction of a separate tax bill on Wednesday that would give ministers similar powers.

British ministers, including those previously opposed to Brexit, told the Sunday Times they would back Mr Johnson if a deal was unacceptable and he opted for no deal at the end of the transition period.

UK Environment Secretary George Eustice has said the cabinet will back Boris Johnson if no post-Brexit trade deal is possible © Hollie Adams / AFP / Getty

“The prime minister should do the best,” one minister said. “He has full and 100% solid support from the firm.” George Eustice, UK environment secretary, said on Sunday: “This is in a very difficult position, there is no point in denying this.”

Business groups and farm leaders have warned that a no-deal exit would be a disaster, as it would add tariffs and quotas to new red tape at the EU border when the UK leaves the single market and customs union.

Despite the difficult positions on both sides, it has been suggested that a compromise may be possible in the coming days.

On a level playing field, Mr. Eustice told Sky’s Sophy Ridge program that there are “precedents in other trade agreements in which commitments are made not to water down environmental or other standards.” .

But he said it was vital that any deal didn’t hamper your ability as an independent country to make your own laws.

Clément Beaune, French Minister for Europe, alluded in a newspaper interview on Sunday to solutions being explored on a “level playing field”, describing a system in which the UK could deviate from EU standards. ‘EU, but at the cost of reduced market access if it strayed too far. .

The French minister also clarified that the European side recognized that it would not be able to keep 100% of its fishing rights in British waters, but said that “significant and lasting” access rights would be a problem. necessary part of everything after Brexit. treat.

Mr Eustice said Britain was willing to consider “a multi-year agreement of up to three years”, but said this could not be enshrined in a treaty “in perpetuity”.


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