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EU says there is a deal to be done, but reminds the UK that 'Brexit means Brexit'

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Following last week’s European Council, European Council President Charles Michel, Vice President Maroš Šefčovič and EU Chief negotiator for relations with the UK Michel Barnier presented the conclusions to MEPs.

The British government, through its Chief Negotiator Lord Frost, appeared to take the hump at the replacement of the word ‘intensify’ with the word ‘continue’ in the conclusions of last week’s European Council meeting. There was much sabre-rattling from the British side and much continuity from the EU side. 

Today (21 October), the conclusions were reiterated, but this time a Downing Street spokesperson replied: "We note with interest the EU's negotiator has commented in a significant way on the issues behind the current difficulties in our talks. We're studying carefully what was said. David Frost will discuss the situation when he speaks to Michel Barnier later today."

Charles Michel borrowed from Theresa May, saying that “Brexit means Brexit” and that this means making choices. He said that EU leaders want a deal, but not just any deal: “No other economy is as closely aligned to ours as the British economy. We need to ensure that the European Union and the United Kingdom's companies face fair competition on the EU market, this is why we have put so much emphasis on ensuring a level playing field on governance and conflict resolution. Together with fisheries these are the main outstanding issues where we are still far apart.”

Michel Barnier pointed to the progress that has been paid on many fronts including transportation where the UK has agreed to specific level playing field provisions in road transportation. He also mentioned progress on Europol and Eurojust co-operation, data protection, energy, social security coordination, trade in goods and on European programmes such as Horizon (R&D) and Erasmus. However, he said that much progress was needed on fisheries and governance.

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Britain expects 'very significant' week for Brexit talks as clock ticks down

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Britain and the European Union are heading into a “very significant” week, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday (29 November), as talks over a trade deal enter their final days with serious differences yet to be resolved, writes .

EU negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters in London that “works continue, even on Sunday” on his way to a negotiating session, as both sides look for a deal to prevent disruption to almost $1 trillion (752 billion pounds) of trade at the end of December.

“This is a very significant week, the last real major week, subject to any further postponement... we’re down to really two basic issues,” Raab told the BBC.

Despite missing several self-imposed deadlines, the negotiations have failed to bridge differences on competition policy and the distribution of fishing rights.

But Britain’s transitional EU exit agreement - during which the bloc’s rules continue to apply - expires on 31 December, and Britain says it will not seek any extension. A deal would have to be ratified by both sides, leaving little time for new delay.

“The bottom line is... in the ordinary course of things we need to get a deal done over the next week or maybe another couple of days beyond that,” Raab told Times Radio in a separate interview.

Earlier, he had signalled some progress on the ‘level playing field’ provisions which look to ensure fair competition between Britain and the EU, and said fishing remained the most difficult issue to solve.

Despite accounting for 0.1% of the British economy, fishing rights have become a totemic issue for both sides. Britain has so far rejected EU proposals and remains adamant that as an independent nation it must have full control of its waters.

“The EU have just got to recognize the point of principle here,” Raab told Times Radio.

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Brexit: ‘Frankly, I cannot tell you if there will be a deal’ von der Leyen 

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Addressing the European Parliament this morning (25 November) European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that she couldn’t say whether the EU would be able to reach a deal with the UK on its future relationship before the end of the year. She said the EU side was willing to be creative, but that it would not put the integrity of the Single Market in question. 

While there has been genuine progress on a number of important questions, such as law enforcement, judicial co-operation, social security coordination and transport, von der Leyen said that the three ‘crucial’ topics of level playing field, governance and fisheries remained to be resolved.

The EU is seeking robust mechanisms to ensure that competition with the UK remains free and fair over time. This is not something that the EU can skate over, given its proximity and the scale of existing trade ties and integration in EU supply chains. The UK has to date been ambiguous about how it would deviate from European norms that it played no small role in shaping, but the logic of Brexit supporters is that the UK could become more competitive through deregulation; a point of view that obviously makes some EU partners a little ill at ease.

‘Trust is good, but law is better’

The need for clear legal commitments and remedies has become starker following the UK’s decision to introduce an Internal Market Bill that includes provisions that would allow it to deviate from parts of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol. Von der Leyen said that strong governance was essential in "the light of recent experience".

Fisheries

On fisheries, von der Leyen said that no-one questioned the UK’s sovereignty of its own waters, but held that the EU needed "predictability and guarantees for fishermen and fisherwomen who have been sailing in these waters for decades, if not centuries".

Von der Leyen thanked the parliament for their support and understanding in the difficulties such a late agreement presented to them. A final deal will be several hundred pages long and need to be legally scrubbed and translators; this is unlikely to be ready by the next plenary session of the European Parliament in mid-December. It is generally acknowledged that if a deal is to be arrived at a plenary on 28 December will be needed. Von der Leyen said: “We will walk those last miles together.”

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UK will remain global leader for asset management after Brexit: Sunak

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British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak (pictured) said on Tuesday (24 November) that he was determined that the United Kingdom would remain a global leader for asset management after Brexit, writes William Schomberg.

“We’re beginning a new relationship with the EU. And as we do so, we are determined that the UK will remain a global leader for asset management,” Sunak said in comments to a conference organized by The Investment Association, an industry group.

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