Is Britain Edging Near a Brexit Deal With the EU?

Published December 22nd, 2020 - 12:19 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
Highlights
Britain and Brussels appeared to be inching closer to an agreement on fishing.

Britain and Brussels appeared to be inching closer to an agreement after the EU offered fresh concessions.

Chief negotiator Michel Barnier originally offered to accept a cut of just 15 per cent in the EU’s quota of fish in British waters, phased in over ten years.

This was raised to 25 per cent over eight years, in what was said to be a ‘final offer’. But last night, there were reports that the two sides could settle on the EU handing over 35 per cent of its quota over five years. Future disputes would be settled by independent arbitration.

The move means parliament could be recalled to vote through a Brexit deal on December 30.

Ministers have drawn up ‘tentative’ plans to call MPs and peers back from their Christmas break the day before the Brexit transition period ends. Parliamentary sources said legislation to put a deal in place could be pushed through in a single day – leaving MPs almost no time to scrutinise it.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has also announced changes to Commons procedures which would allow MPs to take part in any Brexit debate remotely, rather than having to travel to Tier Four London.

Mr Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost have continued to meet daily to settle their differences and reach a deal.

Boris Johnson told European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen that to avoid a No Deal, the EU needed to change its stance ‘substantially’.

The fishing compromise was similar to the one previously proposed by former Brexit adviser Raoul Ruparel, EU sources told the Financial Times. However, this was denied by the UK, which said ‘significant differences’ still remained between the two sides.

Nicola Sturgeon yesterday led calls for the transition period to be extended beyond December 31, saying the Covid crisis ‘demands our 100 per cent attention’.

Some pro-Remain Tories also backed the call.

Former defence minister Tobias Ellwood said: ‘These are far from ideal conditions to rationally determine our future prosperity and security terms. If there’s No Deal by the new year, let’s do what’s best for the UK and pause the clock.’ Simon Hoare said it was time to ‘stop the clock, temporarily’, adding: ‘There is no Parliamentary time to scrutinize and agree a deal and the clarity of the dangers to our already pressured economy of No Deal is alarming.’

But Eurosceptic Tories urged the PM to stand firm.

Former Brexit minister David Jones said: ‘Given that the EU have pursued a wholly unreasonable position throughout the trade negotiations this year, why would anyone think they would be any more reasonable if there were an extension?’ Tory MP Marco Longhi said: ‘What’s going to be agreed in an extension that couldn’t be agreed in four years of negotiations?’

Downing Street said the PM would not extend the deadline for negotiations.


The Prime Minister’s spokesman also dismissed the idea that a short ‘standstill’ arrangement could be put in place if talks continued beyond the end of the year. He said time was ‘obviously in very short supply’ to get a deal done but insisted it would have to be approved by MPs before the new year. He added: ‘We will need to ratify any agreement ahead of January 1. The Leader of the House made clear that we would recall Parliament in order to give MPs a vote on the necessary legislation.’

Mr Barnier said the EU could ‘provisionally’ ratify a treaty as late as December 31, with MEPs asked to formalize the process next year.

Mr Rees-Mogg said it is ‘technically possible’ for the UK to do the same.

But Downing Street’s refusal to countenance the idea means a deal would have to be agreed by December 28 in order to allow time to recall parliament and finalise the legislation.

This article has been adapted from its original source. 


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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