Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen discussed progress in the UK-EU trade talks via phone last night, with Johnson describing the talks as in a “serious situation”.
A no-deal was described as “very likely” while von der Leyen said it would be “very challenging” to bridge the remaining “big differences”, particularly on fisheries.
A statement from Johnson said the UK “could not accept a situation where it was the only sovereign country in the world not to be able to control access to its own waters for an extended period and to be faced with fisheries quotas which hugely disadvantaged its own industry”.
The UK’s chief negotiator David Frost echoed the PM’s downbeat tone, tweeting: “The situation in our talks with the EU is very serious tonight. Progress seems blocked and time is running out.”
Fish and state aid
As we enter another pivotal weekend in the talks, the rhetoric is again increasing, with the Sun’s UK sources describing EU demands as “offensive” and “unreasonable”.
Although fishing is a stumbling block, the UK also baulked at what it regards as an uneven approach to state aid, which it claims would see the EU exempting more than £680bn of its subsidies while demanding the right to punish Britain for doing the same.
Such an approach would hinder the UK’s entry into new markets such as electric vehicles, the paper suggests.
Another Sunday deadline
European MEPs yesterday released a statement saying that a deal needs be reached by midnight on Sunday in order for a plenary session to be organised for a vote on its ratification before the end of the year.
With just 14 days until the 31 December, the chances of a deal being reached in this time are less than 50%, according to cabinet minister Michael Gove.
The BBC reports him saying that the “most likely outcome” is ending the year without a deal. However, if the deal is not finalised by Sunday, Europe could “apply provisional application of the treaty”, he said.
Fast track possible
The UK side is in a position to act quickly though, with MPs on standby to return to Parliament for a vote and legislation for the deal already in draft, Huffington Post reports.
A 50-page skeleton “draft future relationship bill” has been drafted, into which last minute agreements can be dropped.
The government is looking at options for passing the necessary legislation through parliament, starting with a fast track approval on 28 December and culminating with the Commons finalising the process on 31 December, hours before the end of the transition period.