Brexit talks on knife edge as EU accused of fresh demands
Michel Barnier: ‘make or break moment’
Hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal were on a knife edge last night after the EU was accused to making eleventh hour changes to its list of demands.
Britain and the EU will resume talks on a post-Brexit trade deal today as the the clock ticks down to the end of the transition period on 31 December.
But the two teams, led by Lord Frost and Michel Barnier remain unable to reach agreement on key issues such as state aid rules and access to British waters for European fishermen.
Mr Barnier said that talks were reaching a “make-or-break moment”.
In an attempt to break the deadlock, Mr Barnier said Boris Johnson had asked for only 60% of the fish that EU boats currently catch in British waters, down from 80%.
In turn the EU has indicated it will accept the Prime Minister’s request to negotiate fishing quotas annually in the same way Brussels does with Norway.
If no deal is brokered before the transition period ends, the UK will start trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms, meaning the erection of tariff barriers.
Downing Street said Mr Johnson remains optimistic that Britain can secure a trade agreement.
Relations could be further strained next week when the UK government pushes ahead with legislation allowing ministers to tear up the withdrawal agreement signed with Brussels last year.
MPs will vote on the UK Internal Market Bill on Monday, giving ministers the power to break international law by ignoring provisions in the agreement relating to Northern Ireland.
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said yesterday the government intends to reinsert contentious clauses taken out of the bill by the House of Lords.
The EU has already taken the first steps in a legal action over the legislation.
The PM’s spokesman insisted the bill was a “legal safety net” to protect the UK internal market, in case talks about detailed arrangements for the Irish border break down.
Next Wednesday, MPs will vote on a new taxation bill that is said to contain similar powers to override the withdrawal agreement over the issues of customs and VAT.