BRUSSELS (AP) – Germany and France on Tuesday pressured the UK to make concessions in three key areas of Brexit trade negotiations – fishing rights, corporate governance and fair competition – or face a no-deal breakup on January 1 that would further damage a UK economy already battered by the coronavirus pandemic.
German European Minister Michael Roth warned that “no one should downplay the risks of a no-deal. It would be very bad news for everyone, for the EU and even more for the UK. “
Speaking after a meeting of EU ministers he chaired, Roth added that “now it is up to the UK to take the decisive action. “
Ireland, which is at the heart of the negotiations because it has the EU’s only land border with the UK and is heavily dependent on its neighbor’s trade, predicted Britain would miss its deadline of Thursday for a deal and would continue to speak for at least two more weeks.
“Certainly, I don’t see that there will be a major breakthrough this week,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said in Luxembourg, where EU negotiator Michel Barnier debriefed EU ministers – as part of the efforts to ensure that the 27 EU member countries maintain a united front, something they have done since the UK voted four years ago to leave the EU.
Roth said it would take more time because “basically we haven’t really progressed”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has long touted the two-day EU summit that begins Thursday as the deadline for a deal, but he has been inclined to miss target dates during the torturous Brexit negotiations. The bloc has always insisted it was ready to negotiate until early November to strike a deal.
Johnson spokesman James Slack insisted on Tuesday that this week’s summit was still the turning point. He said British negotiator David Frost would brief the prime minister before EU leaders meet to see if recent intensive talks have made a deal possible.
Johnson, who has met in recent weeks with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders in a bid to unblock the talks, is to hold an appeal with the President of the European Commission , Ursula von der Leyen, Wednesday at Downing St. told me.
Johnson says the EU must change its position if it wants a deal and insists the UK is quite ready to walk away without a deal.
Slack said Johnson told his cabinet on Tuesday that “if we want a deal on the right terms, if we can’t get it done, we’re ready and willing to move forward with an Australian-style outcome, without fear. Australia does not have a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU.
France has warned it could cost the UK the unhindered access it wants to the huge and rich continental market. Its Minister for Europe, Clement Beaune, said that in particular when it comes to UK business access to the EU market, the bloc must be very strict to ensure that UK businesses will not be able to undermine their continental rivals through minimal regulation and excessive government subsidies.
“Otherwise, we would have unfair competition, which is not supported by our citizens, our businesses and our workers,” Beaune said.
France is considered, especially by Great Britain, as one of the nations most reluctant to compromise, especially on the issue of French vessels’ access to British fishing waters.
A senior French official, speaking anonymously in accordance with the usual practices of the French presidency, said that “in the latter part of the negotiations there is always increasing stress”. He warned against “the risk that this stress will lead (the EU) to take decisions that will take us away from our initial and common objectives”.
Since last month, member states have also become ardent in demanding legal guarantees on the governance of any deal since Johnson introduced legislation in September that violates the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement he himself signed with the EU last year.
Coveney said if a deal were to be approved, Johnson would have to get rid of any domestic legislation that violated the Withdrawal Agreement.
“This legislation will have to be removed for any final agreement to be ratified,” he said.
The EU said any deal would take around two months for legal ratification, translation into many European languages and approval by the European Parliament, resulting in an effective deadline of around November 1.
Lawless reported from London. Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this story.
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