• Thursday, June 30, 2022

Business

‘Success not certain’, says EU chief on Brexit deal

Boris Johnson (Photo: JACK HILL/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

BRITAIN and the EU have moved closer to sealing a new trade deal but it was still unclear if they would succeed, the bloc’s chief executive said on Wednesday(16).

Britain and the EU are in the final stretch of talks to keep an estimated one trillion dollars of annual trade free of tariffs and quotas beyond December 31, when the UK finally transitions out of the world’s largest trading bloc.

With just over two weeks left, prime minister Boris Johnson said he hoped the EU would “see sense” and agree a deal that respected Britain’s sovereignty, while German chancellor Angela Merkel said the bloc favoured agreement.

French president Emmanuel Macron, who is at odds with Britain over fish quotas, said he wanted the best relationship with London.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament: “I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not. But I can tell you that there is a path to an agreement now. The path may be very narrow but it is there.”

“We have found a way forward on most issues but two issues still remain outstanding: the level playing field and fisheries,” she said. “Issues linked to governance now have largely been resolved. The next days are going to be decisive.”

‘An ocean apart’

Von der Leyen said discussions about access to UK fishing waters for EU vessels were still very difficult.

“Where we get to with the EU – well, again, that is very much a matter for our friends. They know what the parameters are,” Johnson said at a press conference.

But the two sides have yet to narrow gaps on two of the thorniest issues: fishing rights in British waters and the level playing field.

An EU official told Reuters the bloc had rejected Britain’s offer of phased access to its waters over three years by EU fishing vessels and the sides were “an ocean apart” on the issue.

Von der Leyen hailed a “big step forward” in agreeing a so-called non-regression clause, which would “ensure that our common high labour, social and environmental standards will not be undercut”.

Sources said there were disagreements over “balanced equivalence”, which London saw as tying Britain to the EU’s regulatory orbit, and a dispute resolution mechanism to determine whether competition was distorted and remedies if so.

Britain saw the EU’s pitch for “effective remedial measures” as giving the bloc too much leeway to retaliate on trade.

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