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The European Commission President’s comments today suggested that trade negotiations are still not reaching a breakthrough as the bloc appears to be refusing to back down over its demands. Negotiators have so far agreed on goods and services, as well as on transport. But Ms von der Leyen said there are still issues, including fishing agreements, that are blocking a deal being agreed fully .
The UK is seeking annual catch negotiations but the EU wants a longer-term perspective for its fishing industry.
Ms von der Leyon told the European Parliament: “The next days are going to be decisive.
“The European Union is well prepared for a no-deal-scenario, but of course we prefer to have an agreement.”
BBC Europe Editor Ms Adler also warned the EU is deliberating whether to carry on with “pointless negotiations” as there are no plans for talks to resume in person this week.
She tweeted: “EU sources tell me that no decision has yet been formally taken about Michel Barnier’s movements once he comes out of #COVID19 quarantine (Friday).
“He had been expected to go to London to continue negotiations but this is not confirmed.
“Talks are not going well, say EU sources.
“EU sources describe as ‘very serious’ the fact that -so late in November – the European Commission President stood before Parliament as she did today and said she couldn’t say for sure if there would be a deal with UK or not.
“EU sources say there’s no point carrying on ‘pointless negotiations’ which is why Mr Barnier’s travel plans have not been confirmed but his expected travel to London hasn’t officially been cancelled, either.
“Interesting to see if UK chief negotiator David Frost makes statement.”
France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused the UK of “dragging its feet” in the last-ditch Brexit negotiations.
He added Paris would not back down on the fisheries issues.
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He told a parliamentary hearing: “The outcome is uncertain. British overtures remain insufficient on the most sensitive matters.
“At this time, Britain is dragging its feet on secondary matters and is playing with the calendar.
“I say this to our British friends, we won’t let the calendar take priority over the content of the accord.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions today, Boris Johnson made it clear the Government will not be extending the Brexit transition period.
Northern Irish Alliance MP Stephen Farry for North Down asked: “The Northern Ireland business community is extremely concerned that it is now impossible to be ready to fully implement the protocol from January 1.
“Their top priority is to ask the EU for an adjustment or grace period.
“This request is based on respect for the protocol and is not about an extension to the transition period.
“Will the Prime Minister give his support to this ask?”
Mr Johnson replied: “Of course we’re not going to extend the transition period but we want to make practical arrangements to help businesses in Northern Ireland and we’ve agreed, for instance, a one-year adjustment period so there is no disruption to the flow of medicines.
“And we’ve already launched a £200m trader support service to help agri-food businesses and others and that’s going to… more details will be announced shortly.”
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