Brexit: Trade deal sticking points 'can be resolved', says United Kingdom minister

Daniel Fowler
November 16, 2020

The European Commission's chief spokesman said: "We prioritise the quality of this agreement over any kind of timing or deadlines".

The senior diplomat suggested it might already be too late to hit the parliament's deadline, saying: "It will be tight and, as the negotiations drag on, we will maybe have to see that we find some creative solution - but that is too early to discuss that at this stage".

He added: "If a deal isn't done this week we have real problems".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in precautionary self-isolation on Monday after contact with a lawmaker who tested positive for COVID-19 as Brexit talks resumed with Britain insisting its red lines were still in place.

Frost said the parties now "largely have common draft treaty texts, though significant elements are of course not yet agreed".

"We are working to get a deal, but the only one that's possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade, and our waters".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has acknowledged that the Internal Market Bill breaches worldwide law.

United Kingdom chief negotiator David Frost is in Brussels for another round of negotiations ahead of a European Council video summit on Thursday which has been touted as a deadline for a draft deal.

Almost one-third of the world's population signs free trade agreement
After seven years of negotiations, the Narendra Modi-led government dropped out of the RCEP-related talks at the end of 2019. RCEP provides some flexibility for less-developed members to implement the practical and legislative changes it requires.

The sources also wondered if the upheaval in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's inner circle - in which his top adviser and Brexit mastermind Dominic Cummings was ousted - was distracting London's attention and making it harder for Frost to know exactly how far he could go towards a compromise to nail down a deal.

"There hasn't been any success in closing the gap between the positions of either side".

Seeking to maintain what it calls a "level playing field", the European Union is demanding that Britain make a commitment to not backtrack on standards as well as to cooperate on how these evolve in the future.

"The Prime Minister has been clear that we will not accept any proposals in the negotiations that undermine our status as a sovereign, independent country and if the European Union don't respect the sovereignty of the United Kingdom we will leave on Australian terms and the Prime Minister is confident that we will prosper", it said.

Yet the commission has also been clear that its own fundamental principles can not budge on issues like regulations, governance, and fisheries. These negotiations are not in a good place when it comes to fishing.

A further complication is the question of the Irish border, which was solved by last year's withdrawal agreement until the United Kingdom tried to overwrite it with domestic law.

"Our red lines haven't changed and we're preparing for whatever the outcome is", Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky. The two sides are trying to seal a long-term deal on future trading terms before a transition period expires at the end of the year. Because Britain is leaving the single market and customs union, United Kingdom businesses will face new border checks and controls whether or not an agreement is signed. Without one, millions of consumers will face the return of quotas and tariffs for the first time in a generation.

The National Audit Office warned last week that the government had not done enough to prepare for 31 December and that there would be disruption at the border on 1 January no matter what.

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