Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Michel Barnier hatches plan to get Brexit deal past Macron amid fears of EU power grab

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Sources said a handful of leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, were concerned that the agreement could be bundled over the line without proper scrutiny. One insider said the EU’s chief negotiator could avoid a potential rebellion by producing a “declaration” that assures capitals the Brexit trade deal doesn’t infringe on their national powers. The document would include promises that any provisions in the pact are a “one-off” move to protect trade and security ties with Britain.

Express.co.uk understands that France and Italy have already raised concerns there isn’t sufficient time to translate the legal text into their languages.

EU sources said the English version of the deal could now be the only one pushed through the ratification as time runs out to secure an agreement.

Mr Barnier was said to be pushing hard for any agreement to only fall within the EU’s competencies to streamline the process.

But areas such as air and road transport, and judicial and security cooperation might encroach on national powers.

The declaration would inform member states that agreements brokered on these issues would not become a precedent for Brussels to take control of in the future.

Under a separate plan being drawn up by senior eurocrats, there could be phased implementation of the agreement.

Brussels would sign off on the main sections, including tariff and quota-free trade, to ensure they are ready to go.

The trickier issues would be left to be green-lighted by EU27 parliaments at a later date.

It was hatched after European Council President Charles Michel warned colleagues there won’t be enough time to fully approve the future relationship pact if an agreement is not reached by Monday.

EU leaders are expected to express pessimism at the lack of progress in the Brexit trade talks during a crunch video conference on the bloc’s future.

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said the negotiations are now in “stoppage time” with disagreements over fishing rights and state aid rules still blocking progress.

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He said: “It is time to clarify what this Brexit will look like. We are in stoppage time in the negotiations. A final agreement will have to be reached in the coming days.”

After the wrangling was suspended due to a coronavirus scare, Finnish Europe minister Tytti Tuppurainen warned the talks had entered a “critical stage”.

She said: “The time pressure is huge and we all realise that time is running out.”

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Mr Barnier announced that he had suspended face-to-face talks after a member of his team was struck down by the virus.

He said he was working with UK negotiator Lord Frost to get the talks back on track while protecting the health of their two teams.

It has also emerged some EU member state have urged Mr Barnier not to go too far to secure a deal for the sake of his legacy.

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