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Brexit: Barnier says there are good prospects for a deal

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The European Council of heads of government were updated today (15 October) on EU/UK negotiations on the UK's future relationship with the EU. While some progress was noted, the EU underlined that it wanted a deal, but not at any price.

European Council President Charles Michel firstly offered his apologies for the absence of the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who has had to self-isolate because of her contact with a member of her team who has tested positive for COVID. 

An agreement - but not at any price

Michel said that the EU was united and determined to reach an agreement, but an agreement would have to be based on the EU’s mandates, especially when it comes to the level-playing field, governance and fisheries. He gave the example of accepting cars from the UK without comparable standards and with the risk of huge subsidies, while offering the UK no tariffs and no quotas. He said that this would risk hundreds of thousands of European jobs. He called on the UK to make the necessary moves.

Withdrawal agreement must be implemented ‘full stop’

On the withdrawal agreement, Michel said that the EU expected it to be fully implemented: “full stop”, He said that this was a question of international credibility for the UK. 

A fair deal

EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier said that he was determined to reach a fair deal with the UK: “We will do everything we can, but not at any price.” He anticipates intensive discussions over the next weeks but said that the EU’s position had been crystal clear from day one of the negotiations. If you want access to our market of 450 million people, there must be a level playing field and there must be free and fair competition. 

‘Good prospects for a deal’

Barnier said he was able to report on real progress to the European Council but that there remained three subject areas where the gap is too big at the moment. Barnier added that while there were good prospects for a deal it couldn’t be done without progress on the three outstanding issues. Barnier is aiming for an agreement by the end of October. 

Asked about what the EU wanted in terms of guarantees, Barnier said that he would like to see precise principles enshrined in treaty form. The UK would also need to provide assurance on domestic enforcement, who would do the enforcing and how would they keep the EU forewarned. Another critical element will be a dispute settlement mechanism, that would allow both parties to take unilateral measures if necessary. 

UK response

While the press conference in Brussels was drawing to a close, a seemingly irate Lord Frost - Barnier's opposite number in the negotiations, fired off a series of tweets, complaining that the European Council had removed the word 'intensively' from their conclusions.

Brexit

Brexit decision entirely separate from US election outcome says PM Johnson

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Britain’s decision on whether to agree a Brexit deal with the European Union is entirely separate to the outcome of the US election next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday (26 October), writes William James.

“The two things are entirely separate,” Johnson said, when asked about an Observer newspaper report that he was waiting to see the US result before making a Brexit decision, and whether he was concerned about the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency.

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'Time is very short' Britain says as EU's Barnier heads to London

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Britain said on Monday (26 October) that time was very short to bridge the significant remaining gaps on key issues in talks with the European Union, as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier heads to London to continue negotiations, write and

The United Kingdom left the European Union in January but the two sides are trying to clinch a deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual trade before a transition period of informal membership ends on 31 December.

After a brief hiatus when London walked away from the negotiating table, both sides are now meeting daily to try to find common ground.

At stake is the smooth flow of cross-border trade as well as the harder-to-quantify damage that a chaotic exit would do to areas such as security information sharing and research and development cooperation.

“There is much work to be done if we’re going to bridge what are the significant gaps that remain between our positions in the most difficult areas and time is very short,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

Barnier and his EU team will be in London until Wednesday, after which talks will switch to Brussels and continue through the weekend, an EU spokesperson said.

EU diplomats were not expected to be briefed on progress in the latest batch of talks until later in the week.

Johnson told reporters he was very glad to be talking with the EU again, but offered no new clues on the likelihood of a deal: “We’ll see where we go.”

Since talks restarted last week, British ministers have said real progress has been made and that there is a good chance of a deal. On Sunday, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said a deal to avoid tariffs and quotas was likely.

After some progress on competition guarantees including state aid rules, the hardest issue remains fishing - Johnson has insisted on taking back control over Britain’s waters while the EU wants access.

Although Britain insists it can prosper without a deal, British companies are facing a wall of bureaucracy that threatens chaos at the border if they want to sell into the world’s biggest trading bloc when life after Brexit begins on 1 January.

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A good chance we can get a deal with EU, says UK minister Lewis

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Britain and the European Union have a good chance of striking a deal on future relations, the British government’s Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis (pictured) said on Sunday (25 October), writes William James.

The United Kingdom left the EU in January but the two sides are trying to clinch a deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual trade before a transition period of informal membership ends on Dec. 31.

Talks resumed last week after Britain walked away in frustration at what it saw as the EU’s unwillingness to compromise on key issues. On Friday (23 October), Britain said there had been good progress since the restart.

Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper said the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was planning to extend his stay in London until Wednesday (28 October).

Asked about that report, and the overall prospects of a deal, Lewis told the BBC: “I’m always an optimist...and I hope and I think there’s a good chance we can get a deal, but the EU need to understand it is for them to move as well.”

Lewis restated the government position that it would rather leave without a deal - a scenario it calls leaving on Australian terms - than accept a deal which is not in Britain’s interests.

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