Brexit: Ursula von der Leyen calls for ‘fairness’ from UK
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Boris Johnson would carefully look at the proposals outlined by the European Commission but would not be willing to hand power to Brussels on fishing rights. He said: “Once we leave the end of the transition period, we will take back control of our waters and we would never accept arrangements and access to UK fishing waters that are incompatible with our status as an independent coastal state.”
The contingency plans outlined by Ms von der Leyen would see a series of mini deals agreed, including giving EU fishing boats the same access to UK waters that they currently enjoy.
The document states it would seek “the status quo in terms of access by Union fishing vessels”, a request which the European Commission described as “proportionate”.
Brussels’ proposals also set out measures to minimise disruption for aviation, road and train freight, so long as the UK agreed to continue to link itself to EU rules and regulations.
Ms von der Leyen said: “Negotiations are still ongoing. However, given that the end of the transition is very near, there is no guarantee that, if and when an agreement is found, it can enter into force on time.
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“Our responsibility is to be prepared for all eventualities, including not having a deal in place with the UK on January 1 2021.
“That is why we are coming forward with these measures today.”
While rejecting the EU’s demand for fishing access, the Prime Minister’s spokesman did not rule out the UK agreeing to the other suggestions made by eurocrats.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said in the event of a no deal the Government would work with the EU to find a solution which minimised the impact of the sudden change in trading status.
He said: “This kind of statement from the EU is expected, they set out a similar proposition in September 2019.
“We have already set out our own plans in the event a free trade agreement cannot be reached and we have said we will discuss practical arrangements with the EU.”
He added the Cabinet Office was working on preparations to ensure the UK was ready for any disruption caused by “the end of the transition period as well as any other pressures that we may face over the winter period”.
Last night the Prime Minister and the European Commission President agreed negotiations on a trade deal would continue until Sunday when the pair would make a firm decision on the future of talks.
Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen met for dinner at the European Commission’s headquarters in Brussels to try and find a political solution to the impasse currently holding up progress.
They were joined by their chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier.
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Over the two and a half hour seafood dinner, the leaders are understood to have had a “frank” discussion, with neither side convinced a deal could be secured.
A senior No10 source said: “The Prime Minister and von der Leyen had a frank discussion about the significant obstacles which remain in the negotiations.
“Very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged. The PM and VDL agreed to further discussions over the next few days between their negotiating teams.
“The Prime Minister does not want to leave any route to a possible deal untested.
“The Prime Minister and von der Leyen agreed that by Sunday a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks.”
Fishing rights, state aid, and governance have plagued talks for months, with little progress on the issues.
So far neither side has been willing to compromise arguing it is up to their counterparts to concede.
European leaders are meeting for an EU summit today, where Ms von der Leyen will brief member states on the situation.
Speaking to reporters as she arrived at the summit, the European Commission President said: “We are willing to grant access to the single market to our British friends, it’s the largest single market in the world.
“But the conditions have to be fair. They have to be fair for our workers and for our companies and this balance of fairness has not been achieved so far.”
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