Wednesday, November 29, 2023

‘Last roll of the dice’: UK and EU to resume trade negotiations on Brexit | UK

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Negotiators will meet in Brussels to try to strike a post-Brexit deal before the end of the transition deal on December 31.

British and EU negotiators are expected to meet in Brussels in a final attempt to strike a post-Brexit trade deal before a transition period ends on December 31.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke on Saturday and instructed their teams to resume talks after their break on Friday.

In a joint statement after their call, Johnson and von der Leyen said no deal was possible if disagreements over the three thorny issues of governance, fisheries and competition rules, known as the rules fair play, were not resolved.

“This is the last roll of the dice,” said a British source close to the negotiations.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost will resume their talks later on Sunday. “We’ll see if there’s a way forward,” Barnier tweeted.

Meanwhile, UK media have said UK ministers will back Johnson on a no-deal Brexit.

A total of 13 ministers, including eight opposed to Brexit, said they would support a no-deal scenario if Johnson concludes it is necessary, The Times reported on Sunday.

Johnson is reportedly lobbying EU leaders ahead of his next phone call with von der Leyen on Monday evening.

The 27 leaders of the EU member states will meet in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit scheduled to tackle their own budget dispute, which will again be clouded by Brexit concerns.

Britain officially left the EU in January, almost four years after a referendum that divided the nation [File: EPA]

Thorny issues

While much has been agreed upon, the parties cannot close the thorniest debates over fishing rights, fair trade rules and an enforcement mechanism to govern any agreement.

Britain officially left the EU in January, nearly four years after a membership referendum that divided the nation in the middle and two months after Johnson won an election touting what he claimed was a deal on Brexit ‘ready for the oven’.

The UK is tied to the EU’s tariff-free single market until a post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year – an irremovable period after which both sides must try to agree on the exact nature of their future relationship.

Without an agreement, most cross-Channel trade will revert to World Trade Organization terms, a return to tariffs and quotas after nearly five decades of close economic and political integration.

Talks throughout this year have finalized most aspects of a deal, with Britain preparing to leave the EU’s single market and customs union, but the three core issues remain unresolved .

Johnson has insisted Britain “will prosper mightily” regardless of the outcome of the talks, but he will face serious political and economic fallout if he cannot strike a deal.

“If we do not come to an agreement with the European Union, it will be a serious political failure,” influential British Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat told the Lowy Institute in an interview published on Saturday.

European capitals have remained remarkably united behind Barnier throughout the tense Brexit process, but some internal fractures have started to surface.

France on Friday threatened to veto any deal that failed to meet its demands for fair trade and access to UK fishing waters, where it demanded a lasting deal, as Britain wants frequent renegotiations.

“We know that 100% access to fishing waters in the British maritime area is over,” European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune told Journal du Dimanche.

“But we need sustainable access. The British cannot have full access to our single European market and exclude fish. “

Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark share Paris’s fears that the European side could give too much reason to the rules to maintain competition.

There are only a few days left to finalize a deal, with an EU leaders summit on Thursday looming and the European Parliament repeatedly insisting it needs time to assess and ratify any compromises.


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