Sunday, October 25, 2020

Brexit talks: Crunch time for negotiations as EU puts pressure on UK over deal

Brexit talks: Crunch time for negotiations as EU puts pressure on UK over deal

EU leaders piled pressure on Britain for strong concessions today as Brexit talks reached crunch level.

The Prime Minister had threatened to walk away unless the structure of a deal emerged by the time of the two-day European Council summit which begins in Brussels today.

But EU leaders are expected to tell their chief negotiator Michel Barnier to continue negotiations over “coming weeks”, according to the draft conclusions of the summit.

The document, seen by Reuters, said: “The European Council invites the Union’s chief negotiator to continue negotiations in the coming weeks, and calls on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible.”

Major sticking points have been over fair competition, solving disputes and fishing rights. Brexiteers fought the referendum on a pledge to take back control of British waters but France has so far refused to budge on the current agreements.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to warn French President Emmanuel Macron he is running the risk of shutting the entire bloc out of UK waters.

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi today said the Government wanted a deal but businesses needed time to prepare in the event of no agreement.

He told Sky News: “We will wait for the outcome of the European Council meeting, and then the Prime Minister will make a decision as to where we are.

“We absolutely want a deal. We want a Canada-style deal. But if we can’t get a deal, rightly so, we’ve got to allow businesses to prepare.”

It comes as global investment bank Goldman Sachs suggested a “thin” Brexit deal could be struck by early November. Analyst Sven Jari Stehn said in a note to clients there could be “drama” but that neither the UK’s October 15 deadline nor the European Commission’s October 31 deadline constituted a hard stop. EU leaders meeting in Brussels are expected to agree to step up contingency preparations for an abrupt economic split.

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