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Throwing away the self-imposed deadline of Sunday, the European Union and Britain said they will “go the extra mile” to achieve a post-Brexit trade deal that would avoid New Years chaos and the cost of cross-border trade.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, had set Sunday as the deadline for a breakthrough or a break in the negotiations. But they backed off the edge because there was too much at stake not to give a definitive push.

“Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations and despite the fact that deadlines have been missed time and time again, we both believe that it is responsible at this time to go the extra mile,” von der Leyen said.

Ursula von der Leyen
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, arrives to deliver a statement at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on December 13, 2020. (AP)

The negotiators continued to speak in Brussels at the EU headquarters.

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, immediately welcomed the development and said that “we should do everything possible to make an agreement possible”, but warned that there could be an agreement “at any price, no. What we want is a good agreement, an agreement that respects these principles of economic fair play and, also, these principles of governance. “

With less than three weeks until the United Kingdom final separation from the EU, key aspects of the future relationship between the 27-nation bloc and its former member remain unresolved.

The progress came after months of tense and often irritating negotiations that gradually narrowed the differences down to three key issues: rules of fair competition, mechanisms to resolve future disputes, and fishing rights.

It has been four and a half years since the British voted 52% to 48% to leave the EU and, in the words of the Brexiters’ slogan, “regain control” of UK borders and laws.

More than three years of bickering passed before Britain left the bloc’s political structures on January 31. Unraveling the economies that have become closely intertwined as part of the EU’s single market for goods and services took even longer.

The UK has remained part of the single market and customs union during an 11-month transition period after Brexit. That means that so far, many people will have noticed little impact from Brexit.

January 1 will feel real. New Years Day will bring big changes, even with a deal. Goods and people will no longer be able to move between the UK and its continental neighbors.

Brussels
European Union flags, seen through Christmas decoration lights, flutter in the wind in front of the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, on December 12, 2020. (AP)

Exporters and importers face customs declarations, merchandise controls, and other obstacles. EU citizens will no longer be able to live and work in Britain without a visa, although that does not apply to the more than 3 million already there, and British people can no longer automatically work or retire in the EU.

Unanswered questions remain on large areas, including UK-bloc security cooperation and EU market access for Britain’s huge financial services sector.

Without an agreement, the United Kingdom will trade with the bloc under the terms of the World Trade Organization, with all the tariffs and barriers that this would entail.

The UK government has acknowledged that a chaotic departure is likely to bring jams at British ports, temporary shortages of some goods and price increases for staple foods. Tariffs will apply to many UK products, including 10% on cars and more than 40% on lamb.

Still, Johnson says the UK will “prosper tremendously” on those terms.

To start conversations that falterNegotiators have imposed various deadlines, but none have brought the parties together on the issues of fair trade rules, legal oversight of any deal and the rights of EU fishers to enter UK waters.
UK Navy Ship
Britain’s belligerent tabloid press urged Johnson to stand his ground and raised the possibility of Royal Navy ships patrolling UK waters against intruding European ships. (Getty)

While both parties want an agreement on the terms of a new relationship, they have fundamentally different views of what it entails. The EU fears that Britain will lower social and environmental standards and inject state money into UK industries, becoming a low-regulation economic rival at the gates of the bloc, demanding strict “level playing field” guarantees from change of access to their markets.

The UK government claims the EU is trying to bind Britain to the bloc’s rules and regulations indefinitely, rather than treating it as an independent nation.

Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonz├ílez Laya said that a no-deal Brexit would be a “double blow” for economies already hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

“When you do a trade agreement, it is clear that you are a sovereign nation; they are made to manage interdependence,” he told Sky News. “The UK and the European Union are interdependent, so let’s make an agreement that reflects the need to manage this interdependence.”

Britain’s belligerent tabloid press urged Johnson to stand his ground and raised the possibility of Royal Navy ships patrolling UK waters against intruding European ships.

But others, in Britain and across the EU, urged the two sides to keep talking.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin, whose economy is more intertwined with Britain than any other EU state, said he “fervently” hopes that the talks do not end on Sunday.

“It is absolutely imperative that both parties continue to compromise and both parties continue to negotiate to avoid a no-deal,” Martin told the BBC. “A no-deal would be very bad for all of us.

“Even at 11 o’clock, in my opinion, there is the ability for the UK and the European Union to conclude an agreement that is in our interest.”

– Reported with Associated Press


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