- UK and the EU trade agreement pending
- The EU is urging Boris Johnson to make a final decision and make the necessary concessions to reach an agreement.
- UK has refused to accept the EU's requirements on a level playing field for enterprises and a mechanism for implementing agreements.
According to people familiar with the negotiations, the UK and the EU are expected to reach a trade agreement in the next few days. After an EU negotiator contracted the new coronavirus, the two sides suddenly suspended their in-person talks this week, but officials on both sides expressed optimism.
The European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, offered fresh cause for optimism during a press conference. “After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress now we have seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files. This is good,” she said.
People familiar with the matter who did not want to be named because the content of the talks was not made public said that an agreement may be reached before next weekend, or more likely in the week of November 30.
People familiar with the matter warned that to do this, the British government and the European Union still need to make major political decisions and that more concessions from the UK are needed. Otherwise, the negotiations may break down.
Ursula von der Leyen continued: “Within the frame of the level playing field, progress, for example, has been made on the question of state aid, but there are still quite some meters to the finish line so there’s still a lot of work to do. Where the timelines are concerned, time pressure is high without any question at the moment.”
“There’s a lot to work on because there is now substance where you can go through line by line, word for word. The whole team is engaged and working tirelessly day and night to reach the natural deadline we have to be done by the end of the year,” said Ursula von der Leyen.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Barnier, the chief negotiator of the European Union, had to isolate themselves after contacting patients with the new coronavirus, making the drafting of the agreement more complicated.
Johnson will end the quarantine next Thursday. The EU is urging him to make a final decision and make the necessary concessions to reach an agreement. So far, the UK has refused to accept the EU’s requirements on a level playing field for enterprises and a mechanism for implementing agreements.
A UK official said: “Although there has been some progress in recent days, there is much work to be done and time is now very short. We now need to see more realism from the EU on what it means for the UK to be an independent state.”
Officials said that, including the participation of high-level officials, many factors in the coming days will determine when and whether an agreement will be reached, adding to the last-minute complexity. Barnier may be isolated until November 26, and then may go to London for the final round of talks.
One EU diplomat said: “There is tangible progress on a number of areas while gaps are only slowly shrinking on core issues like a level playing field, governance, and fisheries. Growing concern that the negotiation process does not proceed quickly enough to ensure the ratification of a possible agreement until the end-of-the-year deadline.”
“Hope is nevertheless that negotiations can be finalized quickly if and once the necessary political decisions are taken in London. At the same time, EU member states are in agreement that contingency planning needs to be ramped up in parallel to the ongoing and hopefully successful EU-UK negotiation process. Still, the EU needs to be prepared for every possible outcome.”