EU to keep pressing Britain on trade deal
Brussels – European Union leaders will agree on Thursday to extend talks with Britain on a trade deal in coming weeks to seek concessions on fisheries, fair competition and dispute resolution in an effort to preserve a trillion euros worth of annual commerce.
Months of talks between the estranged allies have narrowed gaps on issues from energy to welfare for 2021 when Britain’s transition period after leaving the bloc ends.
But the three most contentious areas have so far prevented a deal, with businesses and markets increasingly jittery as the year-end deadline nears for agreement between the world’s sixth biggest economy and its largest trading bloc.
Last month, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson set October 15 as the deadline for a deal and on Wednesday said he would decide what to do after reflecting on the conclusions of this week’s EU summit.
“The European Council invites the Unionʼs chief negotiator to continue negotiations in the coming weeks, and calls on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible,” the latest draft of the EU summit conclusions said.
Many on financial markets expect a thin deal by early November, though after several more weeks of drama.
The 27 EU heads of state will also want an acceleration of contingency plans for an abrupt split if no agreement emerges in time on trading with Britain without tariffs or quotas.
But, keen to avoid being blamed, the bloc will continue negotiations for as long as possible, a German government source said, adding: “The European Union will not be the ones getting up from the table.”
The EU says a deal must come in early November at the latest to allow time for ratification by its parliament and some national chambers. Britain’s junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi said London also could not wait much longer as it needed to tell businesses to prepare if talks fail. (Reuters)