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Brexit: EU leader sees ‘very narrow’ path to agreement

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Credit: Belga

There is a path to a post-Brexit trade agreement between the EU and the UK, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Members of European Parliament on Wednesday.

“The path may be very narrow, but it is there,” von der Leyen said.

“The good news is that we have found a way forward on most issues,” she said, “but this is now a case of us being so close and yet being so far away from each other because two issues still remain outstanding.” Those issues are the level playing field, and fisheries.

On fisheries in particular, “the discussion is still very difficult,” according to von der Leyen.

However, “we must continue to try finding a solution,” she added, calling it “the only responsible and right course of action.”

While the UK left the EU at the end of January, it has remained part of the EU’s single market and customs union as part of a transition phase which will end on 31 December.

EU and UK negotiators have had many rounds of negotiations to try and reach an agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal, but so far, none has been reached.

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“The next days are going to be decisive,” von der Leyen said, “and I know I have said this before, and I know deadlines have been missed time and again.”

The latest of those deadlines was the end of last weekend, as von der Leyen announced on Wednesday after a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

After no decision came, negotiations continued, with the only real deadline being 31 December, the last day of the transition period.

If no deal is reached, World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules will apply between the EU and the UK, meaning high tariffs and extensive customs controls.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times