“Despite exhaustion” after almost a year of negotiations, “despite the deadlines repeatedly passed”, they will continue to try to find an agreement. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen decided this Sunday to continue post-Brexit trade negotiations in order to avoid a no deal with serious economic consequences.
“We think it is responsible at this stage to go further,” they said in a joint statement, following a telephone interview. “We have therefore mandated our negotiators to continue discussions and see if an agreement can be reached even at this late stage,” they added. Failure of negotiations, however, remains the “most likely” scenario, Johnson warned.
Saturday evening, after a week of tensions, London still considered “unacceptable” the Europeans’ proposed trade agreement. It is a question of stopping the counterparts imposed on Great Britain to guarantee it access to the EU’s single market without customs duties or quotas.
Boris Johnson is “absolutely clear, an agreement must be fair and respect the position which is that the United Kingdom will be a sovereign country in three weeks”, explained a British government source. This Sunday morning, no white smoke had come out in Brussels, indicating that the standoff was still likely to last part of the day, between the European negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost.
How long will the negotiations last? At this stage, no deadline has been put forward.
If no compromise is found, the UK, which officially left the EU on January 31, 2020 but continues to abide by European rules during a transition period that ends on December 31, will slam the door of the EU. Europe in less than three weeks.
Fishing, a major sticking point
Discussions stumble over fishing rights in British waters. Four Royal Navy patrol boats, 80m-long vessels, stand ready to prevent EU trawlers from entering UK’s heavy fish waters on the morning of January 1 if there is no new deal on fishing rights, one of the sticking points in trade negotiations. The British Ministry of Defense confirmed that ships were on standby, explaining that it had “carried out intensive planning and preparations to ensure that Defense is ready for various scenarios at the end of the transition period”, according to a door -speak of the ministry.
This deployment evokes bad memories of the “cod wars” with Iceland over fishing rights in the North Atlantic, which lasted for almost 20 years, before finally finding a settlement in the 1970s. For fishermen French, it’s a disaster. In the event of a “no deal”, 20% of the sector will sink. The subject is also crucial for Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland.
The Defense Ministry said it has 14,000 soldiers ready to be deployed to help with the post-Brexit transition. According to British media, army helicopters could also be mobilized to monitor the coasts.
The UK government has warned that even with a trade deal, 7,000 trucks heading to Channel ports in south-east England could be held up in 100km queues if companies do not prepare additional documents required. The BBC reported on Saturday that Britain will speed up the movement of some perishable goods at the end of its transition period to help reduce expected disruption at ports.
The talks are also blocking the settlement of disputes in the future agreement and the guarantees demanded of London by the European Union in terms of competition. Without a deal, trade will be governed solely by the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO), synonymous with customs duties and quotas.
Original article by : www.leparisien.fr