The European Union and the United Kingdom will continue to negotiate a possible trade agreement in the next few days following the final departure of the British from the EU on 1 January. A ‘firm decision’ must be taken on Sunday whether there is any point in continuing. The British government announced this at the end of the working dinner of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in Brussels.
The discussion in person between the two was seen as an attempt to pull off the negotiations that have been going on for weeks at the highest political level. But after three hours of talking, the gap still looks the same. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost are now back on track.
”We had a lively and interesting discussion on the state of play with the outstanding issues”, tweeted Von der Leyen. “We understand each other’s views. They stay far apart. The teams need to get back together immediately to try and solve the cases. We’ll make a decision at the end of the weekend.”
The negotiations are stuck on three main points: access for EU fishermen to British waters, a level playing field (equal rules) for British and European companies and the monitoring of the agreements reached. After 31 December, the transitional period in which the British still comply with EU rules will end.
After the previous departure from the European institutions, the United Kingdom is therefore leaving the European customs union and the internal market. In the absence of a trade agreement, customs duties and other trade restrictions will apply to trade across the Channel. For example, on top of the coronacrisis, there is a further serious economic blow.