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The Brexit transition deal deadline is drawing ever closer. A Brexit trade deal could be struck by the end of the week. British MPs and peers have been asked to sit on December 21, 22 and 23, with Thursday, December 24, still under discussion. But what has been agreed so far with the post-Brexit trade deal and what needs to happen for a deal to be secured?
Mrs von der Leyen today told the European Parliament that there is now a path to an agreement.
She said: “As things stand, I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not.
“But I can tell you that there is a path to an agreement now.
“The path may be very narrow but it is there.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday told his cabinet the UK wants a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, but not “at any cost”.
His spokesman said the talks are still “most likely” to conclude without a deal.
But both the UK and EU are attempting to reach a trade deal by December 31.
If no deal is reached the UK will leave under World Trade Organization rules.
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Mr Johnson is reportedly prepared to push back the Christmas recess to secure an agreement with the EU by the weekend.
Earlier this week, the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a Brexit trade deal could be agreed this week if Britain compromises over fishing rights.
The European Commission President said MEPs were still endeavouring to reach an agreement about fishing and the level-playing field.
She said: “This is now a case of being so close and yet being so far away from each other.”
Mrs von der Leyen added: “The clock puts us all in a very difficult situation not least this Parliament and its right to exercise democratic scrutiny and ratification.”
She said negotiators were still deadlocked over how to address instances where the EU and UK might diverge in their regulatory regimes in the future.
What points have been agreed thus far?
The UK officially left the EU on January 31 having signed the Withdrawal Agreement (WAB).
This agreement outlined many conditions through which the UK could remove itself from the bloc and begin preparing for a free trade deal including the framework for the “divorce bill” payments owed by the UK in the years to come.
The WAB set out areas in which the European Court of Justice will play a continued role in the UK including an arbitration procedure for any disputes about the agreement.
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The agreement importantly outlined the protocol for the Irish border – a highly contentious issue since the referendum result was revealed in 2016.
The procedures in place aim to avoid a “hard” border, which leaders believe lead to key infrastructure being targeted and lead to increased political instability in the region.
The Government created the Internal Market Bill earlier this year which would enable the UK to override international law outlined in the WAB.
The Internal Market Bill faced strong criticism in the House of Lords and ministers have now agreed they are prepared to remove these clauses in the Bill as it moves through the Commons for a second time.
What needs to be agreed for a deal to be secured?
The European Commission President outlined where the UK and EU stand on the current sticking points.
On Wednesday, she said: “On the level playing field: Our aim is to simply ensure fair competition on our own market — very simple.
“And this is why we need to establish robust mechanisms.
“The architecture we are working on rests on two pillars: state aid and standards.
“On state aid, we have made progress based on common principles, guarantees of domestic enforcement and the possibility to autonomously remedy the situation where needed.
“On standards, we have agreed a strong mechanism on non-regression.
“That’s a big step forward, and this is to ensure that our common high, labour, social and environmental standards will not be undercut. And of course, difficulties remain on the question of how to really future-proof fair competition.”
However, fisheries remains a thorny issue between the UK and EU.
The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) means the fishing fleets of all UK and EU countries have full access to each other’s waters, except for 12 nautical miles out from the coast.
But this would alter after the transition period draws to a close.
Mrs von der Leyen said: “On fisheries, the discussion is still very difficult.
“We do not question the UK’s sovereignty on its own waters, but we ask for predictability and stability for our fishermen and our fisherwomen.
“And in all honesty, it sometimes feels that we will not be able to resolve this question, but we must continue to try finding a solution.”
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