Brexit breakthrough: EU CAVES to Boris sovereignty demands as ‘progress’ made in talks
Brexit: Ursula von der Leyen announces extension to talks
The Daily Express understands that UK officials believe they have a better chance of a breakthrough with Brussels now showing a “greater appreciation” for our position. The dramatic turnaround came as Mr Johnson and European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen agreed that negotiations will continue this week having previously suggested that Sunday was a hard deadline for progress to be made. This leaves both sides a fortnight to find a way to break the deadlock before the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
If no trade deal is agreed by then, Britain will walk away from the European Union and begin trading on World Trade Organisation terms from January 1.
Sources close to the talks said both sides had made “progress” on the level playing field issue – one of the key differences between the sides – after the EU dropped its “ratchet clause” demand for Britain to be permanently tied to the bloc’s regulations.
The two teams are now exploring how the UK can be allowed a “managed divergence” from the EU’s rulebook without eurocrats having free rein to slap Britain with punitive trade tariffs at short notice.
Negotiators were said to be working on a solution that would take future trade disputes to an independent committee if either side believed a rule change creates an unfair competitive advantage for the other’s businesses.
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Signalling a significant concession, a senior EU source said: “The defence of the single market is a red line for the European Union. What we have proposed to the United Kingdom respects British sovereignty. It could be the basis for an agreement.”
Another source close to the UK negotiating team signalled that the fact the talks are continuing means there is still hope of a resolution. “They have moved and there is a chink of light but there is more work to do,” they said.
Speaking after his showdown call with Ms Von Der Leyen and then holding an emergency Cabinet meeting, Mr Johnson said both sides will try “with all our hearts” to strike a deal.
But keeping the pressure on the EU, he warned the UK should get ready to trade on WTO terms as a no-deal exit remains the “most-likely” outcome.
“As things stand, and this is what Ursula and I agreed, I’m afraid we are still very far apart on some key things,” he said.
“But where there is life, there’s hope. We are going to keep talking to see what we can do.
“The UK certainly won’t be walking away from the talks. I think people will expect us to go the extra mile.”
He added: “What we can’t do is compromise on that fundamental nature of what Brexit is all about, which is us being able to control our laws, control our fisheries. It’s very very simple – I think our friends get it.”
The Prime Minister also said he was willing to talk directly to EU leaders after Angela Merkel reportedly rebuffed talks.
A joint statement by Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen said: “We had a useful phone call this morning. We discussed the major unresolved topics. Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days.
“And despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.
“We have accordingly mandated our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached.”
Trade talks between chief negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier will continue on Monday following a frantic weekend with issues over fishing rights, the level playing field – how closely we follow EU rules in the future – and governance still needing to be ironed out.
In a further boost European Council President Charles Michel said the EU was ready to accept Britain as an independent state.
He said: “We want open economies, but based on fairness, on reciprocity. If the UK decides to deploy massive state aid in certain economic sectors it’s their right, it’s their sovereignty.
“But it’s the European sovereignty and the right to not accept unfair competition for European businesses and therefore indirectly for the men and women of Europe who work in these companies. It’s common sense.
“We do not want an agreement at all costs, what we want is a good agreement, an agreement which respects the principles of economic fair play.”
And in a private memo to European capitals, seen by this newspaper, EU officials welcomed the news that the wrangling over a Brexit trade deal had been extended.
“We welcome the update from the negotiations that progress and that negotiations will continue. The next days will be important,” it says.
Meanwhile, European officials and diplomats are working on plans for any free trade deal to be ratified at the last-minute – possibly as late as December 28 – if an agreement is struck in the coming days.
Earlier, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claimed EU demands on fishing – in which it reportedly demanded a 10-year transition to UK sovereignty over its own waters – were “outlandish”.
And Mr Raab failed to rule out trade talks continuing into 2021.
“Of course if we’re 99 per cent there on the outstanding issues you wouldn’t want to leave any stone unturned but I think it’s quite a high bar,” he said.
But Labour’s Ed Miliband said “both sides have to compromise” and urged the PM to “stand up for the national interest”.
The Shadow Business Secretary told the BBC: “He is playing Russian roulette with the jobs and livelihoods of people up and down the country. How dare he say [no deal] would be a wonderful outcome when we know the impact on our farmers.”
A Labour spokesman said: “The Conservatives promised the British people that they had an oven-ready deal and that they would get Brexit done. The Government needs to deliver on that promise, get us the deal and allow us to move on as a country.”
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