London and Brussels announce they will continue discussions before the break scheduled for December 31

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, in Brussels, December 9.

Pushing back the deadline to continue negotiating: that’s the choice made by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Both had initially set this Sunday, December 13, the maximum time to find a post-Brexit agreement.

But after a midday phone call, the two leaders said in a joint statement that it was “Responsible” to avoid a failure with serious consequences, just eighteen days before the final rupture between the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU), on December 31:

“Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that the deadlines have been exceeded many times, we believe that it is responsible at this stage to go further (…) We have therefore mandated our negotiators to continue discussions and see if an agreement can be reached even at this late stage ”

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Commercial freedom against unfair competition

Discussions continued late Saturday evening and resumed early Sunday morning, with no substantive progress. The differences seem irreconcilable between the British who want to regain total commercial freedom and Europeans anxious to protect their huge single market.

The UK, which left the EU on January 31, will abandon the single market and customs union for good on December 31. Without a trade agreement, its trade with the EU will be carried out under the sole rules of the World Trade Organization, with customs duties or quotas that could further weaken economies weakened by the coronavirus.

The discussions stumble on three subjects: the access of European fishermen to British waters, the way to settle disputes in the future agreement and, above all, the conditions that the Europeans demand of the British to avoid any unfair competition.

Tensions in fishing areas

Pragmatic, the Commission issued Thursday emergency measures to maintain, in the event of ” no deal », Air and road transport between the UK and the EU for six months, as well as reciprocal access to fishing waters for one year.

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Sign of renewed tension, the British Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday that Royal Navy vessels were standing by to protect national fishing grounds where clashes could occur in the absence of an agreement.

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Le Monde with AFP and Reuters


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