Several points are blocking the conclusion of a post-Brexit agreement.
Lhe president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Friday that the conclusion of a post-Brexit agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom would require “still a lot of work” despite the “progress” recorded in the latter days.
“After difficult weeks with very slow progress, in recent days we have seen better progress, more movement on important issues. It’s a good thing, ”she congratulated herself during a press conference.
But “there is still a lot of work,” she added, in particular on the three main blocking points: the guarantees demanded in London in terms of competition, the access of Europeans to fish in British waters and the way to settle disputes in the future agreement.
“There is no doubt that the time pressure is strong,” she said. “We must be finished before the end of the year.”
There are about 40 days left before December 31, when the post-Brexit transition period will end during which the United Kingdom – which officially left the EU on January 31 – will stop applying European standards.
Without a trade treaty to govern their relationship, London and Brussels run the risk of a new economic shock, which would be added to the coronavirus epidemic.
The two parties, who are working on a common text that is already well advanced, must in principle reach an agreement sufficiently early before the end of the year to allow its ratification by the United Kingdom, but also by the European Parliament.
But discussions were slowed down on Thursday by a case of Covid-19 in the European team, which forced EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost to end any face-to-face meetings.
People who may be infected will be tested and a decision will then be made on the form of future discussions, a European source said.
“It’s a complete fog”, summarized a source close to the discussions, stressing however that the last blockages remained anyway “political, not logistical”.
Discussions will continue remotely “early next week” and then in person “when deemed safe,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
A British source said most of the UK negotiators in Brussels would return home in the evening.
“We are very far from an agreement, but we are not standing still. At this rate, we left for an agreement in December, ”said a diplomatic source.
Another diplomat, however, said he feared “that the negotiation process will not proceed quickly enough to guarantee the ratification of a possible agreement before the end of the year”, especially if “the necessary political decisions” are not taken quickly. in London.
According to Ursula von der Leyen, London and Brussels have recently seen their position come closer on the issue of state aid, considered essential by the EU, which wants to avoid letting the United Kingdom subsidize its companies all the way.
Several sources have also reported progress on energy, transport, as well as police and judicial cooperation.