EU and Britain distant as key Brexit negotiating week begins

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BRUSSELS / LONDON (Reuters) – The European Union and Britain both said a post-Brexit deal was still a long way off and disputes persisted on Monday over whether to put their earlier divorce deal in place as they began a decisive week of talks in Brussels.

FILE PHOTO: A Mini car is seen with a Union flag and a design of the European Union flag on its hood in London, Britain March 31, 2016. REUTERS / Toby Melville / File Photo

Britain left the EU last January and is stuck in negotiations on a new trade deal from 2021, as well as on the implementation of divorce, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement, particularly in the sensitive Irish border.

EU national leaders will assess the state of play at a summit next month, with a no-deal Brexit still possible.

Negotiations stumbled over fishing, fair competition and dispute settlement, and Brexit fell into further chaos this month when London proposed bills that would undermine the previous deal.

“The UK’s positions are very far from what the EU can accept,” deputy chairman of the bloc’s executive committee, Maros Sefcovic, said on Monday after talks with Michael Gove, the minister responsible for the agreement. of divorce.

“We argue that the bill, if passed in its current form, would constitute an extremely serious violation of … the withdrawal agreement and international law,” he said, calling for rapid progress before to meet Gove again in mid-October.

Gove said clauses in the home market bill that undermined the Withdrawal Treaty would remain.

“We want to make sure that the Withdrawal Agreement is fully implemented,” Gove told reporters. “But these articles are there, they are in the legislation… And these articles will remain in this bill.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said in London that Britain was emphasizing progress in trade talks.

“Although the last two weeks of informal discussions have been relatively positive, there is still a lot to do,” he said.

“We just want the standard free trade agreement … we are always asked to agree to terms that do not reflect the reality of our status as an independent country.”

Trade negotiations resume Tuesday in Brussels. They last until Friday morning and must also cover energy links and transport, they are the last round of negotiations scheduled so far.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday are expected to authorize further talks before their next summit on October 15-16. They will then assess whether to try to push a deal down the line or prepare for the most damaging Brexit at the end of the year.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told reporters at a press conference in Lisbon on Monday evening that a post-Brexit deal was still possible, saying the EU was “working hard on it”.

“Our economies, on both sides of the Channel, have been hit hard by the pandemic and we should do everything to find a manageable deal so as not to increase the negative impact on our economies,” she said. .

The EU says negotiators must seal a deal by the end of October or early November, to allow time for ratification by the European Parliament and some EU national parliaments so that it can enter into force in from 2021, when Britain’s transition to the status quo ends after Brexit.

Otherwise, the delicate peace on the island of Ireland as well as the estimated annual trade of one trillion euros between the EU and the United Kingdom would be threatened as the parties would resort to the general rules of the World Organization. trade which include tariffs and quotas.

Additional reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and William James in London and Catarina Demony in Lisbon, written by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Giles Elgood and Alison Williams

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