Britain, EU agree new momentum needed for Brexit deal by year-end
BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Union leaders agreed on Monday that talks on the future UK-EU relationship should be stepped up to clinch a deal before time runs out at the end of the year.
FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of a Brexit logo in this illustration picture, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
“The Parties agreed … that new momentum was required,” they said in a joint statement after Johnson joined the leaders of the EU’s three main institutions for a video-conference.
“They supported the plans agreed by chief negotiators to intensify the talks in July and to create the most conducive conditions for concluding and ratifying a deal before the end of 2020.”
Britain left the EU on Jan. 31 and its relationship with the bloc is now governed by a transition arrangement that keeps previous rules in place while the two sides negotiate new terms.
However, negotiators have made very little progress towards a trade pact and the talks have all but stalled over issues such as fair-competition guarantees and fishing rights.
London confirmed last week that it had no intention of extending the transition period beyond the end of this year, and this decision was noted by the leaders at Monday’s meeting, according to the statement.
Some fear that, with the two sides so far apart and little time left to negotiate, London’s decision not to extend the transition period may lead to a cliff edge that could compound the economic damage caused by the coronavirus crisis.
One EU diplomat said that, despite plans to speed up negotiations, major progress was unlikely until after the summer, when London would “scramble to get something done” at the 11th hour, as it did last year to reach a withdrawal agreement.
Jill Rutter, an expert at the UK in a Changing Europe think-tank told a Brexit panel discussion on Monday that a “very thin and unambitious deal” was likely, but a no-deal scenario couldn’t be ruled out.
“I think it would be totally wrong to think that the UK will be so desperate that It will move heaven and earth to avoid no deal,” she said.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper in London; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alex Richardson