Brussels, London ‘Working Hard’ to Ink Post-Brexit Trade Deal, EU’s Barnier Says

“After technical discussions this weekend, negotiations continue online today… Time is short. Fundamental divergences still remain, but we are continuing to work hard for a deal”, EU negotiator Michel Barnier warned in a tweet, speculating about the continuing bilateral negotiations over the terms and conditions of Britain’s divorce from the European bloc.

British and European Union negotiators resumed Brexit talks, stalled after one of the EU team tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

On 31 December 2020, the UK is set to withdraw from the European Union’s Single Market and Customs Union, thereby drawing a line under the so-called transition period, which was ushered in in early 2020 by Britain’s formal exit from the bloc.

Such issues as fishing quotas and market terms including a level playing field have since remained major talking points in the latest rounds of discussions on the subject.

AP Photo / Gareth Fuller
A fishing boat at work in the English Channel, off the southern coast of England, Saturday Feb. 1, 2020

London insists that “British fishing grounds are first and foremost for British boats”, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting that “taking back control” over the UK’s waters is a key Brexit objective and vowing that Britain will become an “independent coastal state”. Brussels, for its part, demands a “fair share” of the fisheries as a precondition for any potential trade deal.

Another sticking point in the discussions is London’s would-be regulatory autonomy. More specifically, London has remained firm about “divergence” from EU rules, to which Brussels agreed, but outlined that “some mutual understanding of how much divergence is likely to happen” must be reached.

AP Photo / Francisco Seco
A woman holds up the Union and the European Union flags during an event called “Brussels calling” to celebrate the friendship between Belgium and Britain at the Grand Place in Brussels, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020

Amid recent reports on the upcoming inking of the long-sought trade deal, 10 Downing Street insisted that “the government is united behind the negotiation position”, admitting that “key elements of the draft text are not agreed [upon]”.

“We are working to get a deal, but the only one that’s possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade, and our waters”, David Frost, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator tweeted last week.

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