EU leaders today meeting in Brussels Thursday turned their attention back to Brexit matters after a period in which the subject of the UK’s future relationship with the EU has been left to negotiators.
The UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends on December 31st. After that date, if no deal is agreed on a future relationship between both sides, Britain will trade with the EU under WTO rules.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he will decide after the EU’s two day summit whether or not it is worth continuing with negotiations - but the EU leaders are taking no account of Johnson’s self-imposed deadline.
Arriving at the summit today, EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen repeated today that the EU hoped to reach a deal with the UK – but not at any price.
She later left the meeting to self-isolate as a precaution after one of her staff tested positive for the Coronavirus – although she said she herself had tested negative.
EU – UK Negotiations are bogged down over three key issues.
The EU wants the UK to ensure a level playing field in cross channel business, while Britain wants the power to give state aid to UK businesses if it so chooses.
The issue of governance and how to police any deal on the future relationship is also still a subject of disagreement.
But the issue where real movement is needed is on EU access to the UK’s fishing waters.
Some northern EU countries want continued unfettered access to UK waters after December 31st.
Britain wants to limit access to its waters and for the subject to be renegotiated every year
'We did not choose Brexit'
French president Emmanuel Macron, in particular, is determined that France’s fishing community must not lose access to British waters because of Brexit
“Under no circumstance will our fishermen be the ones sacrificed for this Brexit,” Macron said on arrival in Brussels today. “We did not choose Brexit, it’s the choice of the British people.”
He also declared that France was making preparations for a hard British exit from the EU’s single market and customs union on December 31st.
Underling the importance of fishing for France, the country’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune visited fishing communities in Normandy on Thursday morning.
AFP news agency says that there has been a change to an early version of the EU’s statement on its position. The first version urged EU negotiator Michel Barnier to “intensify negotiations” in order to reach a deal which could be ratified before the UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends on 31st December.
In the latest version, according to AFP, the wording has been dropped.
The EU also decided on Thursday to impose sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and Russian interference in Libya’s civil war.
Six senior officials including the head of Russia’s FSB domestic spying agency will be banned from travelling to the bloc and also have their assets in the EU frozen.