Chattanooga Times Free Press

EU: Brexit trade talks to go on past Thurs­day dead­line

- BY RAF CASERT Brexit · Germany News · European Politics · UK News · Politics · British Politics · European Union · Michel Barnier · Boris Johnson · London · United Kingdom · Mark Rutte · Charles Michel · Ursula von der Leyen · Micheál Martin · Martin · Canada · France · David Frost

Euro­pean Union chief ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier said Brexit trade ne­go­ti­a­tions will con­tinue past Thurs­day’s dead­line set by U. K. Prime Min­is­ter Boris Johnson, and could con­tinue into next month.

At an EU sum­mit, the 27-coun­try bloc’s lead­ers came out united to still seek a deal de­spite the dwin­dling time for agree­ment.

“The ne­go­ti­a­tions aren’t over,” Barnier said. “We shall re­main avail­able un­til the last pos­si­ble day.” Barnier added that his team would be trav­el­ing to Lon­don for more talks next week and would host ne­go­ti­a­tions in Brus­sels the week af­ter that.

He also in­sisted that EU ne­go­tia­tors “are pre­pared to speed up ne­go­ti­a­tions,” coun­ter­ing a Tweet form his U.K. coun­ter­part David Frost that said: “” Sur­prised EU is no longer com­mit­ted to work­ing ‘in­ten­sively’ to reach a fu­ture part­ner­ship.”

Barnier said he saw talks con­tin­u­ing for “two or three weeks.”

Johnson had set the first day of the EU sum­mit on Thurs­day as the dead­line to get a trade and se­cu­rity deal to re­place Bri­tain’s EU mem­ber­ship that ex­pired on Jan. 31. A tran­si­tion pe­riod is set to end on Jan. 1, forc­ing ne­go­tia­tors to work fast if any deal still is to get leg­isla­tive ap­proval and le­gal vet­ting in the lit­tle time left.

EU lead­ers quickly ad­dressed the is­sue at the open­ing of their two- day sum­mit, and in a state­ment they called “on the U. K. to make the nec­es­sary moves to make an agree­ment pos­si­ble.”

Know­ing the chances of a deal are slim­mer by the day, they also urged all in the EU to “step up their work on pre­pared­ness and readi­ness at all lev­els and for all out­comes, in­clud­ing that of no agree­ment.”

“It is for the U.K. now to com­mit it­self and there are far too many ar­eas where things don’t progress as they should,” said Dutch Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte.

Be­yond the call for speed, the lead­ers were also set to flaunt their unity, some­thing Bri­tain has failed to dent dur­ing years of talks on the with­drawal

con­di­tions and now on a bare trade deal with the new non-mem­ber.

Johnson’s of­fice said af­ter a video call with EU lead­ers Charles Michel and Ur­sula von der Leyen that the prime min­is­ter “looked for­ward to hear­ing the out­come of the Euro­pean [Sum­mit] and would re­flect be­fore set­ting out the U.K.’s next steps.”

Few doubt that Johnson will lean to­ward con­tin­u­ing the talks for a few more weeks. The ne­go­ti­a­tions re­main in a deep rut over dif­fer­ences on the is­sues of state aid, com­mon stan­dards of reg­u­la­tion and fish­ing rights.

“Bri­tain has al­ready im­posed so many dead­lines that came and went,” said Rutte, ar­gu­ing it was

time to con­cen­trate on con­tent in­stead. Dur­ing the Brexit di­vorce talks sev­eral dead­lines were im­posed as a fi­nal chance to get a deal, only to see both sides grudg­ingly ne­go­ti­ate fur­ther af­ter­ward.

All ac­knowl­edge that lit­tle progress was made re­cently on the key is­sues. Johnson’s of­fice said that the prime min­is­ter in his talks with the two EU lead­ers “ex­pressed his dis­ap­point­ment that more progress had not been made over the past two weeks.”

A trade deal has the po­ten­tial to save hun­dreds of thou­sands of jobs and would avoid wors­en­ing the eco­nomic cri­sis brought on by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

“With COVID-19 having such a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on so­ci­ety and on the economies in the United King­dom and across Europe, ob­vi­ously I think lead­ers will not want to hit cit­i­zens with a shock in terms of what a no-deal would rep­re­sent, a sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tional shock to our re­spec­tive so­ci­eties and economies,” Ir­ish Prime Min­is­ter Micheal Martin said.

Over­all, the EU says Bri­tain is try­ing to re­tain the ad­van­tages of EU mem­ber­ship with­out the com­mit­ment to play by the bloc’s rules. Bri­tain says it is baf­fled it can’t get a quick deal with gen­er­ous free trade con­ces­sions like Canada got a few years ago.

But EU na­tions like France want the ac­cess of U.K. com­pa­nies to the EU mar­ket to be very strict be­cause of the na­tion’s sheer prox­im­ity and the sim­i­lar­ity in goods and ser­vice that are traded. They want to make sure Bri­tish firms won’t be able to un­der­cut their con­ti­nen­tal ri­vals with weaker en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial reg­u­la­tion and ex­ces­sive state sub­si­dies.

 ?? AP PHOTO/ OLIVIER MATTHYS, POOL ?? Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Ur­sula von der Leyen ar­rives for an EU sum­mit at the Euro­pean Coun­cil build­ing in Brus­sels on Thurs­day.
AP PHOTO/ OLIVIER MATTHYS, POOL Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Ur­sula von der Leyen ar­rives for an EU sum­mit at the Euro­pean Coun­cil build­ing in Brus­sels on Thurs­day.

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