Brexit: EU and UK say Big Differences Remain

The European Union and Britain mentioned on Friday there were still considerable differences concerning a Brexit trade deal. The EU chief negotiator has set to travel to London. This was in a last-ditch effort to avoid a tumultuous ending to the five-year Brexit crisis.

Both sides are calling on the other to settle on the three main issues of contention. These were fishing, state aid and how to resolve any future disputes. There are only five weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU’s orbit on Dec. 31.

The two sides will shortly resume face-to-face negotiations. Last week, they had to be suspended   when one of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for COVID-19.

Barnier said in a tweet, he would travel to London on Friday evening for talks with Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost.

Barnier said, same significant divergences persist.

So far, they have not shown a willingness to shift enough on the three outstanding issues to allow a breakthrough.

A Few Days Left

Britain formally left the EU on Jan. 31. Since then, however, it has been in a transition period under which rules on trade, travel and business remain the same. Starting next year, it will be treated by Brussels as a third country.

One EU diplomat said there are only a few days left for the meeting. Discussions have previously continued through numerous broken deadlines.

A “no-deal” exit would snarl borders, scare financial markets and disrupt delicate supply chains across Europe. The same way as the world struggles with the vast economic cost of the pandemic.

Ambassadors in Europe called on the executive European Commission (EC) to urgently set contingency measures for a no-deal. Barnier, however, is reluctant to go down the contingency route. He still believes a deal can be struck, according to another EU diplomat.

The first sign of movement is likely to be a call between Johnson and Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. No announcement for such a call has been reported so far.

According to a source, it had been tough recently to make progress. On Wednesday, Von der Leyen said the EU was ready for a no-deal Brexit if necessary.

The two sides are attempting to strike a trade deal on goods. It would protect nearly $1 trillion in annual trade and buttress peace in Northern Ireland.

The latter is a priority for U.S. President-elect Joe Biden. He has warned Johnson he must uphold the 1998 U.S.-brokered Good Friday Agreement. This agreement ended three decades of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland.

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