Will Boris abandon trade negotiations with Brussels? EU leaders meet for the critical summit today and the prime minister will decide on ‘next steps’ tomorrow after he remains’ disappointed’ with the lack of progress and Germany ‘ “ warns France not to sabotage a fish deal ”
- European Crunch Summit kicks off today in Brussels with Brexit on the agenda
- Boris Johnson had set the summit as deadline for breakthrough in trade talks
- Last night the PM said he was ‘disappointed that further progress was not made’
- Fishing rights remain a stumbling block in dealing with the separation of France and Germany
Boris Johnson could give up post-Brexit trade talks with the EU tomorrow after expressing “ disappointment ” at the lack of progress made before the negotiating deadline.
The Prime Minister wanted the broad outlines of a deal in place for today’s decisive European Council summit in Brussels, when EU leaders meet to discuss the state of negotiations.
But Britain and the bloc have been unable to break the deadlock in a number of key areas, with the PM now having to ‘reflect’ on the outcome of the summit before defining his ‘next steps’ .
Mr Johnson could choose to leave the talks if he believes a deal is not in sight, putting the UK and the EU on track to separate without a trade deal at the end of the period. transition in December.
But Lord Frost has reportedly advised him not to walk away, with the UK’s chief negotiator apparently convinced that a deal is still possible, potentially within the next two weeks.
He intervened amid a growing split between Germany and France over post-Brexit fishing rights – one of the main obstacles to reaching a deal.
Berlin believes that the tough stance taken by Paris on the issue could derail the entire trade deal, with French President Emmanuel Macron under pressure for a compromise.
Boris Johnson has set today’s European Council meeting as the deadline to put in place the outline of a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU
But the two sides remain divided on a number of key issues, fearing that Emmanuel Macron’s tough stance on fishing rights could derail the deal.
Why the complex UK-EU fishing rights issue leaves Brexit negotiations floundering in cold water
Each country has an exclusive economic zone which can extend up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.
This country has special fishing rights over this area.
However, in the EU, the exclusive economic zone of each country is effectively merged into a common area of the EU.
All fishing activities in this area are then regulated by the bloc’s controversial Common Fisheries Policy, which dictates how much of each type of fish can be caught.
The EU common area is open to fishermen from all Member States.
But after the Brexit transition period, the UK will regain sole control of its exclusive economic zone and be able to decide which countries can fish there and how much they can catch.
Mr Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Brexit comments at today’s summit will be closely followed by number 10, as they will help inform the Prime Minister’s decision on what will happen next.
Any move by Mr Macron on the fishery would spark new optimism that a deal could still be reached, but if he maintains his red lines Mr Johnson might think it is time to cut his losses.
Mr. Macron wants to preserve the same level of access to British waters for French trawlers as today.
But Downing Street is adamant that British ships will be given priority after the transition period.
Germany is increasingly concerned about the fishing disagreement that could derail general talks with Berlin, stressing that a no-deal split could actually leave French boats without access to UK waters.
A German government source told the Express: ‘Everyone knows that if there is no deal, the EU quota in UK waters is zero – now it’s 100.’
The two sides are also still unable to reach agreement on so-called “level playing field” agreements concerning EU rules and governance of the trade deal.
Mr Johnson said on September 7 that “there must be an agreement with our European friends at the time of the European Council on October 15 for it to enter into force by the end of the year”.
October 15 is now slipped to October 16 as the Prime Minister waits to weigh the results of the European Council.
EU member states are due to discuss the state of Brexit talks with chief negotiator Michel Barnier ahead of dinner tonight.
Mr Johnson met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michell last night, but there was no breakthrough.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “Leaders discussed the latest state of play in negotiations on our future relationship with the EU, ahead of the October European Council.
The prime minister noted the desirability of a deal, but expressed disappointment that further progress had not been made in the past two weeks.
“The Prime Minister said he looked forward to hearing the outcome of the European Council and would reflect before presenting the UK’s next steps in light of his September 7 statement.”
This map shows the extent of the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone – the waters over which Britain will regain control after Brexit. Currently, the EEZ of each EU member state is merged into one large area accessible to fishermen from all over Europe.
Many in the EU are skeptical that Mr Johnson will stick to his negotiating deadline, especially if the path to a deal is visible.
The Times reported that Lord Frost had informed the Prime Minister that a deal could still be reached.
But it will likely take day-to-day negotiations to get there in the coming weeks, giving both sides ample time to ratify and implement the deal before the end of the transition period.
A European ambassador told The Times: “The deadline is really a UK deadline.
“Heads of state and government will want to send a strong signal that they are interested, that they want a deal and that negotiations need to be stepped up.”