The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted Sunday that talks with Britain over a post-Brexit trade deal reached a “crucial moment”, stressing the negotiations were in full swing.
“The EU remains committed to a fair, reciprocal and balanced agreement. We respect the sovereignty of the UK. And we expect the same,” he stressed, arguing both parties “must have the right to set their own laws and control their own waters”.
In this crucial moment for the
???? negotiations, we continue to work hard with @DavidGHFrost and his team.
The EU remains committed to a fair, reciprocal & balanced agreement. We respect the sovereignty of the UK. And we expect the same. (1/2)
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) December 20, 2020
The head of the European Commission’s Task Force for Brexit stressed the importance of the UK and the bloc being equally able to act “when our interests are at stake”.
The EU and the UK are “widely expected” to wrap up Brexit trade deal talks “one way or another” before Christmas, but a no-deal scenario is still on the table, a number of UK government sources told the Daily Mail.
Downing Street is ostensibly disappointed by Michel Barnier’s ultimatum with regard to the fisheries issue – something that was described as something that would potentially enable Brussels to slap “lightning tariffs” on London should it put curbs on the bloc’s access to UK fishing waters.
AFP 2020 / TOLGA AKMEN
Late last week, Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to extend negotiations on the UK-EU trade deal beyond the initial self-imposed 13 December deadline, which couldn’t be met: additional time had to be earmarked not only for the sides to discuss the arrangements, but for the parliaments of the 27 EU countries and the UK to ratify them.
As the talks proceeded, the British prime minister stressed that London has “done a lot to try and help” resolve the Brexit limbo and it is the EU that should “see sense and come to the table with something themselves”. EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, for his part, warned that time is almost up for the bloc and the UK to strike an accord, adding that the possibility of a Brexit deal “is here”.
“It’s the moment of truth. We have very little time remaining, just a few hours to work through these negotiations in a useful fashion if we want this agreement to enter into force on the first of January. There is a chance of getting an agreement but the path to such an agreement is very narrow”, Barnier told the European Parliament.
Trade talks have been stuck for months over wide divergences over fishing quotas, the so-called level playing field — a set of commonly accepted rules designed to prevent businesses in one country from acting unfairly with regard to their rivals in others — as well as governance issues.
If no trade deal is inked before 1 January, the World Trade Organisation’s rules will take effect starting in 2021, including customs tariffs and full border checks for UK goods travelling across the English Channel.