Brussels | EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier announced on Twitter that he would travel to London on Friday evening to continue discussions on a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK, despite the persistence of ” significant differences ”.
Face-to-face negotiations had to be interrupted last week after a case of COVID-19 in the French team, forcing him to quarantine himself.
There is very little time left in London and Brussels to agree on an agreement that would enter into force on January 1, when the United Kingdom, which officially left the EU on January 31, will cease to apply. European standards on a transitional basis.
Several European sources had suggested in recent days that Michel Barnier would only go to the British capital in the event of “positive signals” from the other side of the Channel. The Europeans say they are tired and frustrated by the stagnation in the negotiations, but there is no question for them of stopping the discussions.
“The same major differences persist,” regretted in his tweet the Frenchman, who is due to take stock of the negotiations on Friday with the member states, then with the fisheries ministers of the few countries particularly concerned by this issue.
Access for European fishermen to British waters is one of the three sticking points in the talks with the competition guarantees demanded of the British and how to settle disputes in the future agreement.
Without a trade treaty on January 1 to govern their relationship, London and Brussels run the risk of a new economic shock, which would come on top of that caused by the coronavirus epidemic.
The discussion is all the more complicated since it is also necessary to leave time for the European and British Parliaments to ratify this agreement.
The European Parliament is ready to ratify an agreement until the last days of December, but several sources consider that without a final text next week, this schedule will be complicated to keep.