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May has not moved 'an inch' on #Brexit, says Labour's legal chief

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British Prime Minister Theresa May has not moved “an inch” on her Brexit “red lines”, Labour’s top legal policy chief Shami Chakrabarti said on Sunday (7 April), suggesting there was little hope of a quick breakthrough before an EU summit, write Elizabeth Piper and Raissa Kasolowsky.

“So far, our impression is that Mrs May hasn’t moved an inch on her red lines ... In substance, as yet, there’s been not a jot of movement from the government,” Chakrabarti told Sky News.

“It seems to me that this has been left so late in the day ... it’s hard to imagine that we are going to make real progress now without either a general election or a second referendum on any deal she can get over the line in parliament.”

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EU says Britain must respect withdrawal pact, deal or no deal

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Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight Commissioner Maros Sefcovic addresses lawmakers during a plenary session of Work Programme 2021 at the European Parliament in Brussels. Francisco Seco/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Britain must implement the Withdrawal Agreement on its exit from the European Union, regardless of the outcome of ongoing trade talks between the two sides, a senior European commissioner said on Wednesday (21 October), writes Kate Abnett.

“Deal or no deal, the Withdrawal Agreement must be respected,” European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic (pictured) told the European Parliament.

Sefcovic said the EU is committed to reaching a deal on the trade agreement and other aspects of their future relationship, but that the two sides remain “far apart” on the issues of fisheries and the so-called level playing field of fair competition.

“Our objective is still to reach an agreement that will pave the way for a new fruitful relationship between the EU and UK. We will continue to work for such an agreement, but not at any price,” he said.

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EU's Barnier says trade deal with UK 'within reach'

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The European Union’s Brexit negotiator said on Wednesday (21 October) that a new trade deal with Britain was “within reach” if both sides work hard to overcome the sticking points in the coming days, write Gabriela Baczynska and Marine Strauss.

“An agreement is within reach if both sides are willing to work constructively, compromise and working to make progress on the basis of legal texts and if we are able in the coming days to resolve the sticking points,” Michel Barnier said.

“Time is of essence... Along with our British counterparts, we must find solutions to the most difficult areas.”

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EU says Britain has choices to make on Brexit

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Britain has sovereign choices to make on Brexit and they will determine its future access to the EU’s internal market, the chairman of the bloc’s leaders said on Wednesday, stressing it was now up to London to break an impasse in trade negotiations, write and

A frustrated European Union and piqued Britain both exhorted each other on Tuesday to compromise to avoid a fast-approaching disruptive finale to the five-year Brexit drama that would add to economic pain from the coronavirus crisis.

The EU’s Brexit negotiator, however, also said on Wednesday a deal was still possible before the end of the year, when Britain’s current trading terms expire and when commerce free of tariffs and quotas can no longer be guaranteed.

“Time is very short and we stand ready to negotiate 24/7, on all subjects, on legal texts. The UK has a bit of a decision to make and it’s their free and sovereign choice,” European Council President Charles Michel told the European Parliament.

“Their sovereign answer will determine the level of access to our internal market, this is just common sense.”

Michel said the 27 EU members were equally ready for an abrupt split in trading ties at the end of the year without a new partnership agreement to avoid tariffs or quotas from 2021.

“Brexit means Brexit, as (former British prime minister) Theresa May used to say. But Brexit also means making choices about our future relationship,” said Michel, listing the three sticking points in the trade negotiations: fishing rights, the settlement of disputes and economic fair play.

“We don’t need words, we need guarantees,” he said of the so-called level playing field guarantees for fair competition. “Do our British friends want to regulate state aid and uphold high medical standards? If so, why not commit to them.”

On ways to solve any future trade disputes, Michel pressed for agreeing on a “binding, independent arbitration” that would be able to redress any market distortions swiftly.

Michel said London’s draft new Internal Market Bill - which, if adopted, would undermine Birtain’s earlier divorce deal with the EU - only solidified the bloc’s belief that it needed tight policing of any new deal with the United Kingdom.

“Brexit was not our decision and it was not our fishermen’s decision,” said Michel, adding that losing access to the UK’s waters would inflict “extraordinary damage” on EU industry.

The EU is therefore seeking continued mutual access to UK fishing waters and sharing out catch quotas, just as London wants continued access to the bloc’s market of 450 million consumers for its companies, he said.

“But the UK wants access to the single market while at the same time being able to diverge from our standards and regulations when it suits them. You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” Michel told EU lawmakers.

With some €900 billion of annual trade at stake in the troubled talks, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the same plenary session an agreement was “within reach” if both sides worked constructively.

“Time is of the essence... Along with our British counterparts, we must find solutions to the most difficult areas,” Barnier said, in comments that pushed sterling higher on foreign exchange markets.

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