European parliament sets Sunday deadline for post-Brexit trade deal

Michel Barnier raised hopes of a Brexit deal over the weekend after convincing the European Parliament to extend its deadline until the last thing on Sunday – even though British ministers set the chance of a deal at less than 50%.

Boris Johnson was due to discuss the status of negotiations with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday night, but government sources suggested it was a balance sheet rather than a sign of an imminent discovery.

During a previous briefing with leaders of parliament’s political groups, Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, warned against setting a limit that could not be met.

His warning came after a suggestion by Manfred Weber, the German leader of the European center-right People’s Party, who said a vote of no confidence could be held until the end of the month if a trade and security agreement was reached on Friday. .

Barnier described it as “difficult but possible” for an agreement to be reached within 24 hours if the remaining difficulties with EU access to British fishing waters could be overcome. “There is still a lot of work to be done in the fisheries sector,” Barnier told leaders.

He promised that parliament would receive the legal text of a deal quickly once Johnson and von der Leyen signed it.

He promised that parliament would receive the legal text of a deal quickly once Johnson and von der Leyen signed it.

Dacian Ciolos, the former prime minister of Romania, argued that the gravity of a result without an agreement requires flexibility from the parliament, asking: “Can we block an agreement for a few days?”

In a subsequent statement, the leaders of the parliament – apart from the Greens who retained their support due to lack of time for control – said they would hold a vote on December 28 if there is an agreement by the end of the weekend.

Deadlines have come and gone throughout the Brexit negotiations, but the move suggests a weekend deal is becoming more likely if a compromise on fisheries can be found, although UK sources have suggested the talks were ” blocked ”Thursday night.

In an appearance before the Commons Brexit selective commission, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said he felt that the failure to find an agreement remained the most likely outcome. “Unfortunately, I think there is a better chance of not getting an agreement, so less than 50% at the moment,” he said.

Without a parliamentary vote, EU Member States could provisionally apply an agreement under the treaties if they had successfully negotiated before 31 December, in order to prevent the United Kingdom from leaving the transition without new arrangements with the bloc.

MEPs would then vote in January, following a debate in committee and a plenary session, but the European Commission opposes the continuation without Parliament having a say in the remaining two weeks of this year.

Barnier told MEPs that, given that all parties are against the so-called “provisional” application of an agreement, Parliament’s failure to hold a vote of consent in the event of an agreement being dealt with will leave a few weeks after 31 December without arrangements. instead, raising the stakes for a deal in the next 72 hours.

He said fishing was the most difficult issue, with Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost insisting that because the UK had addressed the issue of future standards, it was the EU’s responsibility to compromise fishing demands.

Barnier said in response that by accepting that the United Kingdom would have the unilateral capacity to close its waters after a period of transition, the EU has already moved. He added that the UK will repatriate a significant amount of the catches currently caught by European fishing vessels in the British Seas, although 60% are not being sought.

There is also an ongoing debate about EU access to the area six to 12 nautical miles off the coast of the UK, with Downing Street insisting it should be exclusively for British ships.

Barnier wrote on Twitter: “Good progress, but the last obstacles remain. We will only sign an agreement that protects the interests and principles of the EU. ”

An agreement was reached on a number of other issues, including the right, in the event of a breach of the Treaty, for a party to trigger a cross-suspension, which means that if a problem arises in a sector, measures can be taken in another. Barnier said Britain is trying to leave financial services out of the mechanism, but Brussels is pushing for its inclusion.

He told MEPs that the UK had passed the previous major stalemate of the “evolution clause”, according to which there would be a way to apply unilateral tariffs if there was evidence that the regulatory divergence would lead to the loss of a part.

Talks on state aid continue, he said, with many of the issues resolved, but the EU wanted European companies to go to court in the UK if there was evidence that common principles for subsidy control had not been followed by a new one. national law enforcement body.

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