– by Guy Faulconbridge and Gabriela Baczynska and Kate Holton
London / Brussels (Reuters) – There was no breakthrough in the Brexit talks between the EU and Great Britain on Monday either, but British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to hold negotiations in Brussels in the coming days.
Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday evening after a 90-minute phone call that there had been no basis for an agreement in the recent negotiations. Both sides had asked their negotiating teams to list the existing differences, which Johnson and von der Leyen then wanted to discuss in person. A representative of the UK government said, however, with a view to reaching an agreement: “We may not make it.”
The representative from London, who wanted to remain anonymous, went on to say that Great Britain did not consider the negotiation process to be over yet. But the situation is very complicated. In other quarters of the British government and the EU it was also said that there had been virtually no progress in the most recent talks. EU diplomats even said that the two sides were more distant from each other.
According to Irish broadcaster RTE, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has told the European Parliament that negotiations can take place until Wednesday, but no longer. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the same broadcaster that Wednesday was the ultimate deadline for an agreement. “Political intervention from the very top” is necessary to break the stalemate. The last main points of contention have been wrestling for weeks: future fishing rights, guarantees for fair competition and a dispute settlement mechanism in the event of a breach of the planned agreement.
If an agreement on future relations between the EU and Great Britain, including free trade agreements, is not reached in the next few days, there is a risk of a hard break at the beginning of 2021 with major upheavals for the economy. Great Britain officially left the EU at the end of January, which the kingdom had previously belonged to since 1973. The transition phase ends on December 31st, during which the UK still has to apply EU rules. Without a trade agreement, experts expect higher tariffs on many products and long waiting times at the border.