Negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom on their post-Brexit trade relations will resume on Sunday in Brussels, both sides stressing that an “additional effort” is needed to try to bridge their differences in the short time that rest.
After a call on Saturday at the end of the day to try to end the blockage, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson once again noted the “important differences” which remain on three key areas: competition, dispute settlement mechanism and fisheries.
“While recognizing the magnitude of these differences,” the two leaders believe that an “additional effort” must be made to determine if they can be resolved, according to a joint statement transmitted by Downing Street.
They will meet again Monday evening, the statement said.
“We will see if we can move forward. The work continues tomorrow,” European negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted on Saturday evening.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin, whose country is the only EU member to share a land border with the UK, welcomed the resumption of talks. “An agreement is in everyone’s interest,” he tweeted, saying “every effort should be made” to achieve it.
At the end of another intense week of discussions in London to try to strike a free trade agreement, Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost had concluded on Friday evening that “the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant discrepancies “.
They then announced the suspension of discussions and that the president of the European executive and the head of the British government would meet on Saturday.
Possible French veto
Since the official Brexit date, January 31, London has continued to apply European rules. It is only at the end of the transition period which ends on December 31 that the real upheavals will take place, leaving the single market and the customs union.
The Europeans aim to conclude a free trade agreement before the end of the weekend, condition so that it can be ratified in time by the European Parliament.
A European summit bringing together the leaders of the 27 is scheduled for December 10 and 11 in Brussels.
If London and Brussels fail to agree, their exchanges will take place from January 1 according to the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), synonymous with customs duties or quotas, running the risk of a new shock. economic addition to that of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite its low weight from an economic point of view, fishing is a totem pole for both camps. The British claim respect for their sovereignty as a coastal state. France warned on Friday that it would not hesitate to put its veto if the agreement that would be reached did not suit it.
Paris is worried to see the EU granting too many concessions to the British for fear of a “no deal”.
According to a European diplomat, this apprehension is shared by other capitals, such as Rome, Madrid, Brussels and Copenhagen. “We don’t want to get locked into an unbalanced relationship for decades to come,” he explained.
A figure in the 2016 referendum campaign which saw 52% of Britons vote for Brexit, Europhobe Nigel Farage said he hoped that this “lack of agreement” would not lead to an extension of the transition period. “After four and a half years, those who voted for Brexit would not tolerate it,” he tweeted.
After this weekend under high tension, a very controversial text made its return Monday before the British deputies: the bill on the internal market.
Despite the fury of the Europeans, the Johnson government will reintroduce its controversial provisions – redacted by the upper house of Parliament – reserving the possibility of overriding certain provisions of the divorce treaty with the EU concluded just a year ago.
The government insists that this is a “safety net”, which would no longer be necessary in the event of an agreement. The Europeans see it as an additional difficulty added by the British, which undermines confidence in the respect of any agreement reached with London.