BRUSSELS — Negotiators for the European Union and Britain continued their last-ditch talks for a post-Brexit trade deal on Saturday, with less than two weeks to clinch an agreement.
Talks are ongoing, according to a European Commission spokesperson.
So far, the two sides have not announced any plans for leaders’ talks to take stock of the negotiators.
The European Parliament named Sunday as a deadline, saying this was the last chance to wrap up an agreement and allow for lawmakers to give it proper scrutiny.
Britain formally left the EU at the end of January, but remains in the bloc’s single market and customs union during a transition period that expires at the end of the month.
If no deal is struck, harsher tariffs and more cumbersome customs checks will be instated, and major economic disruption is likely.
EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier said Friday that the two sides are now making their “last try” for a deal, but warned that the slippery question of fish is blocking progress.
If no deal is made, EU fishing fleets will lose their automatic access to highly fertile British waters. London insists on having total sovereignty over its waters, while EU negotiators want continued access to be part of a future deal.
Meanwhile, the Brexit committee in the British parliament has criticized the government’s preparations for the imminent end of a transition phase at the end of this year.
It was “disappointing” that some decisions had been “so long delayed” when it came to the issue of the Irish border, the Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union said.
“The citizens of Northern Ireland deserved to know far sooner the terms of trade within their own country,” it said.
When it comes to law enforcement, “the loss of access to certain databases and sources of information that we have made great use of is a cause of concern,” it said.
“It is unlikely that there will be an EU-UK Surrender Agreement ready to replace the European Arrest Warrant,” it added.
“While we welcome the government’s attempts to communicate to businesses the changes that will take place on 1 January, results appear patchy at best,” it said.
“We are also concerned about the overall state of readiness.”
Long lines of lorries queued up on British motorways leading to the important port of Dover on the English Channel as well as the Eurotunnel. Christmas trade and the high demand for medical supplies due to the coronavirus, but also the restocking of many warehouses before the end of the Brexit transition period, are causing the backlog in traffic.
For weeks now, trade associations have been criticizing congested ports and high freight prices. In some ports, ships have already been turned away because there was no space to unload cargo.
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