Brussels has published emergency plans to keep planes flying, trucks moving, and allow fishing to continue in the event that trade talks with Britain fail.
The plans would ensure that air travel between the EU and UK would continue and that hauliers could continue to cross the English Channel after Britain leaves the EU’s single market on January 1.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tweeted this morning that though negotiations are ongoing, there was no guarantee that an agreement can be reached and entered into on time. “We have to be prepared including for not having a deal in place on 1 January. Today we present contingency measures,” she said.
Time to act
Brussels has up until now resisted publishing contingency plans despite pressure from EU member states, as it feared this could undermine trade talks by giving the UK the impression that it would step in with a safety net should talks fail.
However, with last night’s clear-the-air three-hour dinner between Boris Johnson and Von der Leyen producing no breakthrough, the EU has moved. As the European Commission warned of “significant uncertainty”, Von der Leyen said the EU had a responsibility “to be prepared for all eventualities”.
Planes, lorries and fish
According to the BBC, the Commission is proposing four mitigating conditions to ensure basic connectivity for road freight and passenger transport for six months, the provision of air services between the UK and EU for six months, maintaining the validity of aviation safety certificates, and to allow reciprocal fishing access for UK and EU vessels in each other’s waters for one year, or until an agreement is reached.
Some of the proposals, which require approval from national governments and the European Parliament, would need to be reciprocated by the UK.
The EU has also warned member states to retain their collective bargaining power and to not make side deals with the UK that would undermine it.
The BBC’s Nick Beale reports that the EU olive branch is dependent on the UK accepting key terms, including agreements on the “level playing field” - the subject which has been so divisive in the deadlocked talks.
But talks go on
Johnson and Von der Leyden have given the negotiators the green light to continue talking until Sunday, at which point the Commission president said a decision should be made.
Paymaster general Penny Mordaunt said the UK was “working tirelessly to get a deal” and that the UK had made “extensive preparations”, including for a no-deal outcome.
According to Sky, the series of ‘mini deals’ offered by the EU is being looked at by Downing Street, but that the fishing proposal is likely to be rejected.
The prime minister's official spokesman said: “We would never accept arrangements and access to UK fishing waters which are incompatible with our status as an independent coastal state.”
Separately today, the European Commission has confirmed reports that a ban on travel to the EU because of Covid-19 levels, now applying to non-EU countries, could be extended to UK visitors from 1 January.