Politics

Von der Leyen admits Brexit deal may never happen – but says ‘narrow path’ open to Boris

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The European Commission President claimed EU and UK officials are closing in on agreement in most areas but are still yet to overcome their differences on the main sticking points. And British officials were also warning that while progress had been made the two sides “remain far apart”. Mrs von der Leyen told the European Parliament that disputes over future common standards and fishing rights continue to block significant progress in the wrangling over the future relationship pact. 

She said: “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.”

As negotiations continue in Brussels, the top eurocrat said officials had “found a way forward on most issues”.

She added: “This is now a case of as being so close and yet being so far away from each other because two issues still remain outstanding you know them a level playing field, and the fisheries.”

Mrs von der Leyen claimed UK and EU officials had been able to make progress on the so-called “level playing field” in recent days.

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But the Commission chief said she was unsure whether both sides would ever be able to overcome their differences in the talks over post-Brexit fishing quotas.

“The discussion is still very difficult,” she told MEPs.

“We do not question the UK sovereignty on its own waters. But we asked for predictability and stability for our fishermen and our fisherwomen.

“And in all honesty, it’s sometimes feel that we will not be able to resolve this question. But we must continue to find to try finding a solution.”

With a growing number of MEPs angry at the prospect of being sidelined from the EU’s ratification process, Mrs von der Leyen urged them to support her negotiating team until the final minutes and back any deal.

She concluded: “The next days are going to be decisive. So, I know deadlines have been missed, time and again. The clock puts us all in a very difficult situation, not least this parliament and its right to exercise democratic scrutiny and ratification.

“That is why I sincerely thank you for your support and understanding. And I know that if we do get there, I can count on you to ensure a good outcome.

“We must all walk these last miles in the same shoes.”

European Council President Charles Michel told MEPs he hoped a deal could emerge in the coming days.

He said: “We hope the next few days will shed more light on another major issue in terms of our relations with the United Kingdom.”

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