EU Leaders Sound Unconvinced That A “Fair” Brexit Deal Will Be Struck Before The Clock Runs Out
The EU Commission president has also ramped up contingency plans for a no deal Brexit (Sky News)
Ursula von der Leyen has cast further doubt on hopes that a UK-EU agreement will be struck as she told reporters the “fine balance of fairness” required for the deal has still not been met.
Speaking the day after her dinner with the UK Prime Minister, the European Commission president described the situation as “difficult” despite a “good conversation” between the pair.
“We are willing to grant access to the single market to our British friends. It's the largest single market in the world,” Ms von der Leyen said.
“But the conditions have to be fair, they have to be fair for our workers and for our companies.
“And this fine balance of fairness has not been achieved so far. Our negotiators are still working, and we will take a decision on Sunday.”
The two leaders met in person after they failed to break days of deadlock during an hour-long video call on Monday, after which they agreed that “the conditions for finalizing an agreement are not there” in a joint statement.
The so-called level playing field is understood to be one of the last remaining stumbling blocks, with some progress having been made on the issue of fishing rights.
Mr Johnson has long said that taking back complete control of fisheries is key to the UK regaining its sovereignty as an independent coastal nation.
Meanwhile the EU has steadfastly stuck to the position that retaining access to its internal market must be on its terms, and they will not budge on their preferred mechanism for solving disputes.
If both sides cannot reach an agreement by Sunday, the UK will leave the EU without a deal outlining its future relationship with the bloc.
Late on Wednesday, Ms von der Leyen said in a statement that the two sides “understand each other’s positions”, but conceded that they “remain far apart” on many key issues.
A Downing Street spokesperson also admitted that there were “still major differences between the two sides”, and that a “firm decision” on the future relationship would be taken on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Commission announced on Thursday ramped up contingency measures to ensure basic air and road connectivity and fishing access between the UK and the EU is maintained regardless of whether a deal is struck.
President von der Leyen said: “Given that the end of the transition is very near, there is no guarantee that if and when an agreement is found, it can enter into force on time.
“Our responsibility is to be prepared for all eventualities, including not having a deal in place with the UK on 1 January 2021. That is why we are coming forward with these measures today”.