The European Union and Britain still have a chance of getting a post-Brexit trade agreement but it’s difficult to come to terms on fisheries, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned.
Brussels and London need a deal to regulate trade issues after Britain leaves the EU next year, but it is proving increasingly difficult as time to do it is running low.
“We have very little time remaining, just a few hours to work through these negotiations… if we want this agreement to enter into force on the first of January,” Barnier told the European Parliament in Brussels on Friday.
During this “moment of truth,” there is a chance of getting a deal, he said, but “the path to such an agreement is very narrow.”
The previous day, he noted “good progress” in the final stretch of talks, but tweeted that Brussels “will only sign a deal protecting EU interests [and] principles.”
On Friday, he confirmed that the EU will not sign a deal that would undercut its single market, saying that fisheries is one of the most difficult issues. Barnier made it clear that if Britain squeezes European ships out of its waters, it could decide the outcome of the talks: “We have to be prepared for all eventualities.”
British PM Boris Johnson warned European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday that the Brexit talks were in a “serious situation” and it now looked very likely that an agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially.
Senior British minister Michael Gove, however, hinted that talks might continue after Christmas.
Many fear economic chaos if no trade deal is clinched, but at least France’s freight port in Calais is ready to avoid queues of trucks if customs formalities are done properly. “Brexit is not synonymous with chaos,” Calais port chief Jean-Marc Puissesseau told Reuters.
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