The Brexit talks are continuing, and a “no deal” is the “most likely outcome,” according to negotiating circles. Meanwhile, British MPs are accusing the government of failures.
In their negotiations on a Brexit trade pact, the UK and the EU remain significantly apart. “The most likely outcome” at the moment is a no deal, negotiating circles said Saturday evening. “We will leave no stone unturned to get a deal done.” But “significant outstanding issues” remain on fisheries and subsidies, he said. “Negotiations are continuing, but we are still far apart.”
The pressure is on, with the European Parliament setting a final deadline of late Sunday night. It said a finalized trade deal must be in place by then, otherwise MEPs would not have enough time to consider it. EU negotiator Michel Barnier had warned on Friday that only “a few hours” remained for an agreement. However, the negotiators had already broken several deadlines before. Most recently, it was said, especially in London, that the only deadline was Dec. 31. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly expressed skepticism that the two sides could still reach an agreement.
Conflict point fisheries
Fisheries in particular is a sticking point. Observers of the tough negotiations reported on Twitter on Saturday that the EU could make a move on London on the contentious issue. According to the report, Barnier is said to have offered that the community would pay the British back 25 percent of the value of the fish that EU fishermen catch in British waters. That would be considerably more than has been discussed so far – but nowhere near as much as London is demanding.
Meanwhile, both sides are also preparing for the eventuality that the negotiations fail and tariffs and other trade barriers between the UK and the EU come into force from January 1, 2021. A transitional phase will then end. Although the UK left the EU at the end of January, it will not leave the EU’s single market and customs union until the end of the year.
Government is ill-prepared
However, the British government is ill-prepared, criticized the Brexit Committee of the Parliament in London. Decisions had been made “too late” and communication with businesses was “patchy at best,” it said in a report published in London on Saturday.
MPs were concerned about the state of preparation for the changes coming in at the turn of the year, members of the committee on future relations with the EU said. In the report, the cross-party parliamentary body criticized the slow transition of IT systems at ports, for example. Companies thus have too little time to adapt to the new systems. A new infrastructure for customs and border controls would also have to be set up at the ports. However, the allocation of government funds for the work has been too slow.
With seven working days to go before the end of the transition period, “significant concerns” remain, said Labour MP Hilary Benn. He said the government still could not reliably tell businesses and citizens “what will happen in all the areas affected by the negotiations.”
On Friday, the European Parliament had voted for emergency measures in the event of a no-deal Brexit. At issue are plans for fisheries, aviation safety and air and road transport.
On the freeways in the direction of the important port of Dover on the English Channel as well as the Eurotunnel, trucks were also jammed for kilometers on Saturday. Reasons are the Christmas business and the high demand for medical goods in the Corona pandemic, but also the restocking of many warehouses before the end of the Brexit transition period. For weeks now, trade associations have been criticizing congested ports and high freight prices. Ships have already been turned away at some ports because there was no room to unload cargo.