Boris Johnson’s emergency virus lockdown is easing last-minute pressure on negotiators as they race to reach a trade deal after Brexit.
Officials said the announcement focused on bringing the negotiations to a conclusion within days. As the British Prime Minister was extending new sanctions to London and southeast England on Saturday, negotiators in Brussels were moving towards an agreement.
People familiar with the posts on both sides said that talks are unlikely on Sunday, but should do so before Christmas.
Whether the nine-month negotiations in the trade agreement between the UK and the European Union will depend on both sides, the final major hurdle in finalizing their disagreement over fishing. But this is proving difficult: European countries with large fishing industries are opposed to any concession proposed by the European Commission. Nevertheless, officials on both sides said the difference could still be bridged.
“The European Union is still struggling to obtain the necessary flexibility from member states and continues to make inconsistent demands for our independence,” a UK government official said in a statement. “We are trying every possible path to an agreement, but without substantial changes from the Commission we are going to the WTO terms on 31 December.”
Failure to reach a trade agreement will mean that the UK will trade with its largest and closest commercial partner on terms set by the World Trade Organization – meaning millions of businesses and consumers will face the costs and disruption of tariffs and quotas .
The epidemic has disrupted trade negotiations since Brexit since it began in March. Both chief negotiators were forced into isolation after exhibiting symptoms early in the process and for months the two sides could only speak via video link.
As with most other major issues now, the entire deal now effectively depends on how ready the European Union is for fishing in the UK’s water sector. While Britain was a member of the European Union, through its Common Fisheries Policy it controlled fishing rights, a system which Johnson argues was penalized for Britain’s domestic industry.
European Commission teams held second round talks with national capitals on Saturday in Brussels. An EU diplomat said the discussions were not tense and straightforward.
Following its discussions with member states on Friday, the commission made a proposal that the block would see a shortage of about 25% of the current 650 million euros ($ 800 million dollars) that it catches annually in British waters. According to officials on condition of anonymity, Britain rejected it and is insisting on the European Union to give up to 60%.
The European Union also offered to reduce the period to six years at the stage of the new arrangement, originally 10. The UK, after wanting 10, declined the offer of six and proposed just three years.
The British team feels that it has the upper hand after recent concessions on other major roads, creating a level competitive playing field for businesses. But EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier clarified on Friday that access to the single market would be conditional if Britain’s fishing waters were open to boats by boat.
Negotiations can still be broken. Despite the cautious optimistic tone coming from the negotiating room, a person familiar with the situation in the UK government said that no deal was more likely.
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