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'Eat your veggies': EU to push Britain on trade deal

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European Union leaders pressured Britain on Thursday (15 October) for concessions in their troubled Brexit talks, saying a trillion euros worth of trade could be jeopardized if London does not budge on fisheries, fair competition and dispute resolution, write and

Months of talks between the estranged allies have narrowed gaps on issues from energy to welfare for 2021 when Britain’s transition period after leaving the bloc ends.

But the three most contentious areas have so far prevented a deal, with businesses and markets increasingly jittery as the year-end deadline nears for a deal between the world’s sixth biggest economy and its largest trading bloc.

“We have been making good progress but ‘good’ is not good enough,” an EU official said when asked if a deal was close.

“We cannot say we are close to an agreement.”

Predicting drama over Brexit at a leaders’ meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Goldman Sachs bank said a thin deal was still likely by early November.

The 27 EU heads of state are due to step up contingency plans for an abrupt split if no agreement emerges in time on trading with Britain without tariffs or quotas.

But, keen to avoid being blamed, the bloc would continue negotiations for as long as possible, a German government source said, adding: “The European Union will not be the ones getting up from the table.”

The EU says a deal must come in early November at the latest to allow time for ratification by its parliament and some national chambers. Britain’s junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi said London also could not wait much longer as it needed to tell businesses to prepare if talks fail.

In a call on Wednesday (14 October), senior EU officials pushed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for progress.

Johnson says he will decide whether to continue talks after the EU summit. His negotiator David Frost will advise him to keep persevering, a source said.

With fisheries crucial to France, President Emmanuel Macron was expected to take a hard line on Thursday.

The EU has warned it will not leave the matter to last and that it could only be part of a wider deal together with issues like energy ties or financial services where London has a weaker bargaining position than on fishing rights.

The sides are also far apart on the so-called level playing field guarantees of fair competition. They cover social, labour and environment standards, as well as state aid.

If both sides follow the same rules, they can trade without any barriers. But Britain wants to be able to regulate its own corporate subsidies freely in the future, while the EU seeks to lock in joint principles.

Otherwise, the EU says Britain cannot have open access to the bloc’s cherished single market of 450 million people as it could offer its goods for sale on artificially low prices resulting from substandard production.

“It’s a bit like one of your children not wanting to eat their veggies,” an EU diplomat said of Britain’s reluctance to accept the bloc’s position.

“What do you do? Do you force it into their mouth or do you try to mix it up another way?”

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UK will not back down on fisheries policy in EU talks: Gove

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Britain will not back down on its demands to the European Union over fisheries, minister Michael Gove said in a 26 October letter sent to a minister in the devolved Welsh government, writes William James.

Responding to concerns set out by Jeremy Miles, Wales’s Minister for European Transition, Gove wrote: “I am afraid we strongly disagree with your premise that we should ‘back down’ on fisheries.

“The UK government’s view is that in all circumstances, the UK must be an independent coastal state, no longer be bound by the Common Fisheries Policy.”

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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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