British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Director General of the European Union have given themselves until the end of the weekend to seal a new trade pact after failing to overcome lingering divisions over a ‘frank’ turbot dinner “And” lively “Wednesday.
After Brexit, Britain exits the EU’s trade orbit in three weeks. Failure to agree on new rules governing everything from trade to energy relations would scold borders, shock financial markets and wreak havoc across supply chains in a world already grappling with the economic cost. of COVID-19.
“We agreed that the (negotiating) teams should come together immediately to try and resolve these critical issues,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said after the dinner, which she called “alive. and interesting ”.
“We will come to a decision by the end of the weekend,” she said, adding that the positions of the EU and the UK remained “very distant”.
Fears of a chaotic no-deal final to the five-year Brexit crisis, a senior UK government source said the leaders’ discussion in Brussels was “frank”.
“Very large gaps remain between the two parties and it is still not known if these can be bridged,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
They added that Johnson “did not want to leave any path to a possible untested deal” after the Prime Minister earlier today warned the EU to move or prepare for the most damaging split on December 31 as Britain completes its transition out of the bloc.
The separated allies are bitterly at odds over fishing, a politically sensitive subject for France, agreeing on ways to settle future trade disputes and protecting themselves against price dumping resulting from lower production standards.
About $ 1 trillion in annual trade – currently duty and quota free – is at stake if there is no deal.
Johnson said earlier on Wednesday that Brussels wanted Britain to comply with new EU laws in the future or be automatically punished, and that the bloc was insisting that London relinquish sovereign control over British fishing waters.
“I don’t think these are conditions that a prime minister of this country should accept,” he told the British Parliament, to the applause of politicians in his Conservative Party.
He said “a lot” could still be done if the EU abandoned its demands, but Britain would prosper with or without a trade deal with the bloc of 27 countries.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU’s most powerful leader, told the Bundestag’s lower house earlier today that the EU would not risk the integrity of its single market of 450 million consumers to welcome Great Britain.
“We must have a level playing field, not only for today but for tomorrow and beyond… Otherwise, conditions of unfair competition arise to which we cannot submit our companies,” she said. of the so-called ‘ratchet clause’ through which the EU is seeking to engage Britain in a synchronized modernization of labor, social and environmental standards, as well as state aid rules for business subsidies.
“This is the very big question,” Merkel said, adding that she believed a deal was still possible.
As Johnson arrived at the cruciform Commission headquarters, von der Leyen told him to keep a distance as he removed his face mask to pose for a joint photo.
“Let’s go,” von der Leyen then said to Johnson, inviting him to meet with their main Brexit negotiators.
With a deal still elusive after months of torturous talks and many missed deadlines, the EU complains that Johnson has pulled Britain out of the bloc, but wants to maintain the benefits of membership in an unrealistic attempt to “take the lead.” cake and eat it ”.
Brexit negotiations are set to resume on Thursday as the 27 EU national leaders meet separately in Brussels to agree more ambitious plans to tackle climate change.
They also hope to overcome the blockage by Poland and Hungary of the EU’s next seven-year budget, worth € 1.8 trillion, and a new linked fund to help economies recover from the deep economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
At the same time, the bloc will step up emergency preparations should Brexit negotiations fail.