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'We have found a way forward': Ursula von der Leyen says path to a Brexit agreement is in sight

The European Commission president addressed the European Parliament this morning.

Image: Julien Warnand/PA Images

EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT Ursula von der Leyen has said that British and European negotiators have made progress towards agreeing fair trade rules after the Brexit transition period but remain far apart on access to fishing.

She told the European Parliament this morning that “the next days are going to be decisive” with intense talks on a post-Brexit trade deal set to continue in Brussels.

“The good news is that we have found a way forward on most issues,” she said, adding that she and EU negotiator Michel Barnier can now see a “narrow path to an agreement”.

“But this is now a case of us being so close, and yet being so far away from each other, because two issues still remain outstanding, you know them: a level playing field and the fisheries.”

Von der Leyen said that Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost had made progress towards resolving rules for state aid to businesses and that the ways the deal will be governed “by now are largely being resolved”.

But she was pessimistic on the issue of fish. Britain is insisting that when it leaves the EU single market at the end of the year it will resume full control over access to its waters.

EU member states are holding out to preserve quotas for their crews fishing in UK waters and they want a long-term arrangement to provide stability.

Britain has so far only offered reduced access and annual quota renegotiations.

“On fisheries, the discussion is still very difficult,” von der Leyen said.

“We do not question the UK sovereignty on its own waters, but we asked for predictability and stability for our fishermen and our fisherwomen.

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“And in all honesty, I sometimes feel that we will not be able to resolve this question.”

© AFP 2020 

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