After no weekend progress, push on to reach post-Brexit decision

After no weekend progress, push on to reach post-Brexit decision
Michael Gove, the British chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, buys coffee on November 30 ahead of attending talks to strike a post-Brexit trade deal at the BEIS Conference Centre, with a protester outside

The chief Brexit negotiator for the European Union said on Monday that there was no significant progress in trade negotiations with Britain at the weekend, EU diplomats told dpa, despite intense time pressure ahead of a year-end deadline.

Finding a way to create a level playing field for competing businesses, as well as seeking deals on fisheries and governance, remain the three key areas of disagreement, top negotiator Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors.

After Barnier and his British counterpart, David Frost, called for a break in negotiations on Friday due to a lack of progress, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson instructed them to continue their talks in Brussels.

Lawmakers in Britain are due to head into parliament later on Monday to debate and vote on the controversial Internal Markets Bill, a provisional law outlining trade deals within Britain’s four nations after Brexit.

It was previously amended by parliament’s unelected house, the House of Lords, to remove a section which angered EU officials.

The section, which gives lawmakers powers to make rules about state aid and customs procedures for trade from Northern Ireland to Britain, would be breaking article 4 of Britain’s law regulating Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement.

Critics have previously warned that British lawmakers passing a law which breaks international law agreed between the bloc and Britain could erode trust with the EU and other partners.

The EU argues that this goes against the terms of the agreement whereas Britain claims that the bill is necessary to protect the integrity of its internal market.

READ ALSO: EU, Britain give Brexit talks another chance after negotiation pause

But the minister for the Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly, told Sky News on Monday that the section would be added back ahead of the late Monday vote, meaning it could be voted through and turned into British law despite reservations from the House of Lords and the bloc.

He said if putting the point back in would anger EU officials, it would be “unfortunate”, but added: “Ultimately, this is an insurance policy”.

Media reports claimed on Sunday evening that common ground on the issue of fisheries was close, but both sides promptly denied this.

France has threatened to veto a potential trade deal should the interests of its fishermen not be sufficiently respected.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said that a breakthrough had to be made on Monday.

“There really was no progress made yesterday, that’s our understanding and so we’ve got to try to make a breakthrough at some point today, before the two principals, the Commission president and the prime minister speak later on this evening,” he told Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE News.

Minister for Housing Daragh O’Brien said that the government was “still hopeful” that a deal could be struck.

Speaking to RTE’s Morning Ireland radio programme, Daragh O’Brien said progress had been achieved in around 95 per cent of the areas where agreement has been reached.

O’Brien said he hoped the British government understands the importance of achieving a deal. There are fears in Ireland that a no-deal Brexit would not only damage the economies of both Northern Ireland and the Republic, but that the fragile peace agreement in the North would be jeopardised.

“The British are playing with fire and that fire could burn everybody,” European Commissioner Mairead McGuinness told RTE.

“I am concerned that, if there is no deal, that there is an honouring of the Northern Ireland protocol. If this is not honoured, that would escalate the situation to a very high level internationally. I would hope that what would happen is that there can be a compromise,” she said.

Negotiations are set to continue on Monday, and von der Leyen and Johnson will take stock in a phone call in the evening.

Separately, a joint committee will discuss the implementation of their withdrawal agreement on Monday.

Britain formally left the European Union at the end of January, but remains in the single market and customs union until the end of the year. If there is no deal by this deadline, the harshest of tariffs and cumbersome custom checks would be reimposed.


Vanguard News Nigeria

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