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EU Summit: Today is Boris's deadline day for a trade deal - but talks are still stuck

A draft deal hasn’t been created yet, with wide gaps remaining between the two sides on State aid and fisheries.

Eu negotiator Michel Barnier, speaks with Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney this week.
Eu negotiator Michel Barnier, speaks with Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney this week.
Image: Virginia Mayo

A CRUCIAL BRUSSELS summit in Brexit trade talks begins today.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had earmarked today as a deadline by which a post-Brexit trade deal must be reached.

The EU had prepared time during this summit for a discussion among the EU’s 27 leaders about a trade deal – but a draft deal hasn’t been created yet, with wide gaps remaining between the two sides on State aid and fisheries.

Johnson is currently deciding whether to pursue further negotiations to clinch a last-minute post-Brexit trade deal, after a phone call last night with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Von der Leyen and EU Council president Charles Michel represented Brussels and EU members on the call with Johnson, scheduled for 7.30pm Irish time.

“There are still differences, with fisheries being the starkest. We need to get substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult,” a UK spokesman said, referring to the drawn out effort to agree new trading rules.

In a statement issued after the phone call, Downing Street said:

The Prime Minister noted the desirability of a deal, but expressed his disappointment that more progress had not been made over the past two weeks.

“The Prime Minister said that he looked forward to hearing the outcome of the European Council and would reflect before setting out the UK’s next steps in the light of his statement of 7 September.”

Rumours from inside the EU
European diplomats said Brussels was ready for a deal, but not at any price, and would be looking for a sign from Johnson that he was serious about compromise.

“We need to lower the landing gear, we’re approaching the runway. Is he thinking about landing or is he still at 10,000 metres?” one asked.

The 27 EU leaders – including Taoiseach Micheál Martin – will gather in Brussels for a meeting at 3pm today, with the log-jam in the post-Brexit trade talks as the first item on their summit programme.

Covid-19, climate change, and external relations are also to be discussed. 

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According to initial draft conclusions seen by AFP, the EU will express concern “that progress on key issues of interest to the Union is still not sufficient for an agreement to be reached” and invite EU negotiator Michel Barnier to “intensify negotiations”.

European diplomats said there had been some positive movement from Britain on rules of fair trade in recent days, but not enough to warrant locking the negotiators into a so-called “diplomatic tunnel” to force the talks over the finish line.

Some member states are pushing for the sides to an agree on a “toolbox” of retaliatory measures that Brussels could take in response if it feels that Britain has broken its word on maintain a level-playing field.

The British government and the EU have been locked in trade negotiations since 31 January, the date that Brexit officially happened. On 31 December, the UK officially leaves the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.

If no deal is reached, trade rules will revert to the bare bones of World Trade Organisation regulations, meaning high tariffs on goods going between Ireland and the UK.

With reporting from AFP

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