Brexit POLL: What should Boris Johnson sacrifice to secure a trade deal with EU? VOTE
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Chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost will hold their final meeting in Brussels today following the ninth round of talks. Neither side has so far compromised over their demands, with state aid and fishing remaining contentious topics during negotiations amid the EU’s demands to have access to the UK’s fishing waters. But both sides do agree that time is running out to agree to a deal before the transition period ends on December 31.
Mr Johnson has also warned he is prepared to walk away from the negotiations if there is no agreement by the next EU summit on October 15.
However, it remains unclear what he will discuss with Ursula von der Leyen during their meeting tomorrow.
They may decide to consider to authorise a final intensive round of talks, which has been dubbed “the tunnel”.
A Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister will be speaking to President von der Leyen tomorrow afternoon to take stock of negotiations and discuss next steps.”
The UK wants to replace the common fisheries policy with a system of “zonal attachment” that would result in a huge increase in catches for British fishing fleets.
However, the UK made a compromise over the EU’s fishing demands this week by offering a three-year transition period for European fishing fleets to help them prepare for post-Brexit changes.
In response, a senior EU diplomat said: “We have a long way to go but if the other problematic issues can be sorted, it doesn’t look like fisheries will stand in the way of an agreement.”
Barrie Deas, the head of the National Federation of Fishermen’s
Organisations warned the government not to back down too much to the EU.
He said: “What we wouldn’t agree to is surrendering fishing rights in order to have a trade deal.
“There is no expectation within the UK fishing industry that the UK will back down on fisheries.
“If anything, the commitments that have been made to the industry are stronger now than when the negotiations started.
“We’ve been given clear and unequivocal commitments.”
Meanwhile, another stumbling block between the EU and EU has been over state aid.
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The Withdrawal Agreement states Northern Ireland is a de facto member of the single market, meaning it is also subject to EU state aid law.
The European Commission also said its interpretation of that would cover the UK subsidising a company in mainland Britain which has interests in Northern Ireland.
However, Mr Johnson’s Internal Market Bill would allow the UK to take charge of customs issues with the Irish border.
The EU has reacted with fury over the UK’s attempts to override the Withdrawal Agreement to protect Northern Ireland from EU state aid rules.
Ms von der Leyen said a “letter of formal notification” would be sent to the UK after ministers rejected a demand to withdraw the provisions from the Internal Market Bill by Wednesday.
She said: “This draft Bill is by its very nature a breach of the obligation of good faith laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement.
“The deadline lapsed yesterday, the problematic provisions have not been removed, therefore the commission has decided this morning to send a letter of formal notice to the UK Government.”
A Government spokesman said they would respond to the letter “in due course”.
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