The UK and EU will make a final attempt to strike a post-Brexit trade deal this week, with negotiators likely only a few days left to avoid a chaotic separation of paths at the end of the year.
Irish PM, whose country would face more economic suffering than any of the 26 other EU member states in the event of a ‘no deal’, warned against over-optimism , putting the odds of a deal at only 50-50.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen held talks over the weekend to bring their teams back to the negotiating table after stalled talks on three thorny issues.
They are due to hold another appeal on Monday evening in the hopes that by then stubborn differences over fishing rights in UK waters, fair competition and ways to resolve future disputes will have abated.
The Guardian newspaper reported after talks resumed on Sunday that there had been “a major breakthrough” in the right of European fleets to fish in British waters, leaving only a dispute over the degree of compliance with environmental standards social and labor issues over time. to ensure a level playing field.
A UK government source said there was no breakthrough in fishing rights on Sunday.
EU officials did not immediately comment on the report.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin was not optimistic.
“My feeling, after speaking to some of the key officials here, is that this is a very difficult issue to resolve, especially when it comes to a level playing field… Things are on a razor’s edge here and it is serious, ”he told the national broadcaster RTE.
Meanwhile, The Times newspaper reported that 13 ministers, including eight who initially opposed the UK’s departure from the EU, said they support an exit from the customs union and the single market. EU without a trade deal if Johnson concludes it is necessary.
Since the UK officially left the EU on January 31, negotiators have missed several deadlines for a deal with the world’s largest trading bloc before the end of the standstill transition period on December 31.
EU negotiator Michel Barnier will brief EU country ambassadors in Brussels on the progress early Monday and discussions are expected to continue until the eve of another recording by Johnson and von der Leyen.
If there is no deal, a five-year Brexit divorce will end haphazardly, as will the UK and its former EU partners grappling with the severe economic costs of the COVID pandemic -19.
Emergency vaccination plan
Mairead McGuinness, Ireland’s commissioner for the EU executive, said the next 48 hours were “very crucial” but even if negotiators fail to reach an agreement, the two sides will still have to discuss their future relationship during the new Year.
“So it doesn’t go away: there has to be a deal, there has to be a settlement,” she told the Newstalk Radio podcast.
Even with a deal, the movement of goods and people will be significantly disrupted, as from New Year’s Day Britain will remain outside the EU’s single market and customs union.
There will be more elaborate border controls, resulting in delays in supplies affecting a range of industries, especially those dependent on just-in-time deliveries.
The Observer newspaper reported that, as part of the UK government’s contingency plans, tens of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine could be flown from Belgium by military planes to avoid delays at ports caused by the Brexit.
The UK government declined to comment on the report, but Agriculture Secretary George Eustice told Sky News that the end of the UK transition period would not disrupt vaccine supplies.
“A tremendous amount of work has been done to keep the flow of goods across the border … and we have contingency plans in place as well, including a government bought ferry that is on hold and of course the option , if necessary, to use air freight as well, ”he said.