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EU chief says no-deal still possible despite progress in UK trade talks

Economic Indicators Nov 25, 2020 15:16
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: EU leaders hold a virtual conference on measures against COVID-19 2/2

By Gabriela Baczynska and Marine Strauss

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The head of the European Union's executive on Wednesday reported "genuine progress" in Brexit talks but said the risk of Britain leaving the EU without a new trade deal on Dec. 31 remained, an outcome she said the bloc was prepared for.

Britain and the EU are in a last-ditch effort to agree terms to keep trade flowing without tariffs or quotas from the start of 2021, after London's current standstill transition out of the 27-nation bloc ends.

"The next days are going to be decisive," said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. "The European Union is well prepared for a no-deal-scenario, but of course we prefer to have an agreement."

"With very little time ahead of us, we will do all in our power to reach an agreement. We are ready to be creative. But we are not ready to put into question the integrity of our single market," she said in a speech to the European Parliament.

Negotiators have agreed the outline of a new partnership treaty on goods and services, as well as on transport, she said, adding that "genuine progress" had been made on issues from judicial cooperation to coordinating welfare benefits.

An EU official involved in the negotiations said a deal was possible, but not likely before the weekend at the earliest.

The three main obstacles to a deal are sharing out fishing quotas and agreeing access to waters; finding ways to settle future disputes; and ensuring economic fair play for companies, including on state aid.

"We need to establish robust mechanisms, ensuring that competition is – and remains – free and fair over time. In the discussions about state aid, we still have serious issues, for instance when it comes to enforcement," said von der Leyen.

The German conservative said the EU needed to be able to retaliate on trade if Britain undercuts labour or environmental standards, and wanted long-term predictability for its fishing industry, which faces a reduced catch after Brexit.

"DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT"

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament on Wednesday the EU should accept "the reality that we must be able to control access to our waters" to make progress in the talks on fisheries.

Johnson has repeatedly said he wants a deal with the EU, but only if it respects British sovereignty so he can say he has honoured his election pledge to "take back control".

The prime minister again ruled out seeking any extension of Brexit negotiations beyond Dec. 31.

Officials say the two sides are still far apart on the main issues, with both wanting the other to compromise first.

EU states have pushed the Commission - which is negotiating with Britain on behalf of the bloc - to update contingency plans for a no-deal outcome, though the executive has so far held off.

The official involved in the talks said the plans would only be updated next week if a deal has still not been reached, adding that EU and UK ideas for solutions on the three main contentious issues - which include putting transition periods and review clauses in the deal - were "dramatically different".

While the EU wants to lock in joint production standards for the future, as well as ensuring a long-term perspective for its fishing industry, the official said, Britain wants to be able to drop any such commitments after several years.

EU chief says no-deal still possible despite progress in UK trade talks
 

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Comments (5)
David Moor
David Moor Nov 25, 2020 15:38
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The EU is the future. The National Socialists are on the retreat and will hopefully be vanquished in future elections rather than the bloodbath the last time. the right are finished in the long term.
Hans Ontits
Hans Ontits Nov 25, 2020 15:38
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National socialists? lol. Do you mean the SNP, they are nationalists and socialists. If you mean Nationalist populist parties i dont see any retreat, in fact eastern europe is becoming more entrenched. Hungary etc are watching western europe destroy itself through mass immigration and the woke agenda and they dont want it to happen to them. Look at the mess France are in. This is the fundamental problem with the EU, it is divided culturally east to west and economically north the south. The EU is a noble ambition but it will fail.
Ma St
Ma St Nov 25, 2020 14:09
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Be a mistake to rush for an eleventh hour deal now. Start with no deal and then work something out later.
Veijo Sinerva
Veijo Sinerva Nov 25, 2020 10:39
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Same garbage from the EU that they spewed out for 4 years non-stop. ",But the integrity of the Union cannot be compromised" - I will translate this to mean: Our bully tactics need to remain so we can force other independent nations to follow our rules
David Hawley
David Hawley Nov 25, 2020 10:33
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The EU is just hanging out for a better slice of something it has no right to..fishing. They want to fish our waters for free.
Howard Moore
Howard Moore Nov 25, 2020 10:33
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Ooh..Ahh..Cantona. Thanks for all the fish
Graham Kinnear
Graham Kinnear Nov 25, 2020 10:21
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No deal is better than being dictated too and having our laws over ruled. Both equate to harassment on a large scale. The UK should be big enough and ugly enough to take care of itself.
 
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