British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will head to Brussels on Wednesday for talks with the Commission’s chief, Ursula von der leyen, in a last-ditch effort to clinch a post-Brexit trade deal, after the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier warned that talks with the UK will not go beyond Wednesday. 

The dinner meeting comes ahead of an EU summit, scheduler for December 10-11, during which, von der Leyen will brief EU27 leaders on the outcome of the discussions and on whether a deal is possible. 

The two sides have still to bridge their differences in crucial fields including EU access to UK fishing waters, a level playing field for businesses and dispute settlement arrangements, before the deadline for the transition period expires at the end of the year. Should they not manage to reach a deal, the EU and the UK will need to trade on the terms foreseen by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Last week’s talks between Barnier and his British counterpart reached another stalemate, with the two negotiators deciding to pause their talks to brief their principals. Following a phone call between von der Leyen and Johnson on Saturday, the two sides reconvened in Brussels the next day, while on Monday, addressing EU’s ambassadors at COREPER, Barnier said that Brexit talks were “not far from the very endgame” and that they would continue until the mid of the week but no further than that. 

According to EU sources cited by Reuters, EU’s negotiator said during a video conference meeting with EU foreign ministers on Tuesday that a “no-deal” scenario was more likely than an agreement on a trade pact, also stressing that the bloc should update its no-deal contingency plans. 

However, in a surprising move later in the day, an agreement was reached between the British government and Brussels on the implementation of the Withdrawal agreement. 

“This agreement in principle and the resulting draft texts will now be subject to respective internal procedures in the EU and in the UK,” reads a statement by the co-chairs of the EU-UK Joint Committee on implementing the UK’s withdrawal agreement, Maros Sefcovic, the Commission’s Vice-President and British Minister Michael Gove. 

“Once this is done, a fifth regular meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee will be convened to formally adopt them. This will take place in the coming days and before the end of the year,” the statement adds. 

Shortly after the announcement of the deal, the British PM stated he would drop controversial plans to breach international law, as he would delete the clauses in the so-called Internal Market Bill that would override elements of the Withdrawal agreement, and also that he would not introduce similar provisions in the upcoming Taxation Bill.

In October, the Commission launched legal action against the UK over the legislation, while the EU parliament has threatened to block any trade deal, should London fail to remove the clauses. 




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