Post-Brexit trade deal possible, says Coveney – BBC

  • Simon Coveney said an agreement needed to be “finalised this week if possible” to allow time for it to be ratified and preparations to be made.
  • Mr. Coveney said that there were two issues which needed to be resolved – competition and fishing. He said that competition should be on a “level playing field” and agreement was required on a governance mechanism for potential disputes and that fishing was a politically-emotive subject and there was a need to reach a compromise “that both sides can live with”.
  • Mr Raab said the talks were focused on resolving a “fairly narrow” set of issues. Addressing the dispute around fishing, Mr Raab said the EU should accept a “point of principle” over the UK’s “control” over its fishing grounds post-deal.

Brexit: UK in ‘last leg’ of trade talks with EU, says Raab – BBC

  • Dominic Raab told the BBC it was likely the talks were entering the “last real major week”, and an agreement remained possible if the EU showed “pragmatism”.
  • Face-to-face discussions resumed in London over the weekend.
  • Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, Mr Raab said: “We’re down to really two basic issues, but I think in particular the issue around fisheries. He added that a deal was subject to the EU accepting the “point of principle” that the UK would require “control” over its fishing grounds after the transition.
  • Raab said the UK was prepared to “talk about transitions and things like that” on fishing rights, but the “point of principle” on control would have to be respected.
  • The two sides are also at odds over how closely the UK should have to follow the EU’s social, labour, and environmental standards after the transition.
  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party would decide whether to vote for or abstain on any deal reached, after examining the final agreement although he added “I don’t think there’s really much of a case for voting against it, when that would effectively be to vote for no deal”.

EU will not fall into Brexit ‘negotiating trap’, UK told – The Guardian

  • “The truth of Brexit is now being exposed in terms of the challenges of it,” Coveney told Radio Ulster. “This is something that the UK and the EU have to find a way forward on as opposed to focus on a blame game as regards who is at fault.”
  • France’s European affairs minister, Clément Beaune, said Downing Street was misguided if it believed that running down the clock would work to No 10’s advantage, citing the experience of the last four years of Brexit talks. On the issue of access to UK waters, Beaune said Downing Street would not be allowed to “lay down the law” in the negotiation. “We are still very far from an agreement,” he said. “There can be no agreement unless there is one that gives sustainable and wide-ranging access to British waters … Our terms are known, they are not new.”
  • Angela Merkel, conceded that there was some anxiety about the prolonged negotiations, with the Netherlands, Belgium and France all asking the European commission to trigger no-deal preparations in recent weeks. She said: “We hope that these talks will come to a happy ending. We don’t need an agreement at any price. We want one but otherwise we’ll take measures that are necessary. In any case a deal is in the interest of all.
  • Coveney suggested the UK was using fishing as leverage in other parts of the trade talks and was alive to the potential for Britain to agree compromises in other areas including state aid and governance and then use that to squeeze a last-minute compromise on fishing out of the EU. He said this would be a “British negotiating trap”, adding: “We’re not playing that game. If there isn’t an agreement on this the whole thing could fall on the back of it.”
  • According to reports, the EU’s offer on fishing – to return between 15-18% of fish stocks caught by EU fleets in British waters – was dismissed as “derisory” by British negotiators. However, sources say the negotiations are focused on the quotas of each of the 140 species of fish. “It’s percentages of different types of fish – rights to cod in the English Channel is more important to Britain than, say, rights to mackerel in the North Sea”.

EU tensions build over when to present no-deal Brexit plans – FT

  • Brussels is facing mounting frustration from EU member states over its reluctance to immediately present emergency measures that would mitigate chaos should Brexit trade talks fail.
  • In a sign of the conflicting views over how forthcoming the EU should be while negotiations drag on with only a month left of the Brexit transition period, one EU diplomat warned on Monday that national governments “will co-ordinate and come up with their own set of measures” if the commission continues to refuse to act in areas where member states can also take the initiative.
  • Brussels argues that the need for contingency measures is less than when Brussels and Britain were negotiating the country’s EU divorce treaty, as that deal is now in place and will mitigate some of the fallout of a failure of the trade talks — notably by safeguarding citizens’ rights and avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
  • An European Commission spokesperson noted that changed trading conditions on January 1 were inevitable given the UK’s decision to leave the single market and customs union, and that businesses have had time to prepare. “If contingency measures are needed, they would be limited and tailored to the existing very specific circumstances,” the spokesperson said. They “would be adopted in time to make sure that we are fully prepared for January 1.”
  • But diplomats said action was needed now given that in some cases national parliaments and other authorities would need to study the measures and that the European Parliament would most likely also play a role.
  • EU officials acknowledge that some steps would be needed to prevent instability. Brussels has already acted to mitigate the main threat posed to financial markets by the end of the transition period, taking legal measures to ensure that European banks can temporarily continue to access UK clearinghouses and central securities depositories — crucial parts of financial market infrastructure.