The UK’s Brexit negotiator David Frost arrived in Brussels for last-minute talks over the weekend. The negotiations have been called the “final throw of the dice”, with parties still interested in securing a trade agreement.
George Eustice, Environment Secretary, recently suggested a cut-off date had been set for Wednesday but that this could be extended further if talks over the next couple of days bear fruit.
He told LBC radio show Swarbick on Sunday: “It may be that both sides agree that they’re nearly there and so they decide to persevere for a few more days.”
Clément Beaune, an ally of French President Emmanuel Macron, took a hard stance on France’s position.
He warned countries that France would not “give in to time pressure” and that it would not settle for a deal just because the deadline is looming.
Regarding Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Beaune said: “As for the chancellor – she wants a deal, but she also defends our demands.
“And she knows the European market well enough to guess how the Germany economy would suffer from a bad deal.”
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In any case, it is thought that the biggest hurdle negotiators have to overcome is competition rules.
This obstacle, also called ‘level playing field’ rules, refers to how many subsidies the UK government could give to its own businesses if it wanted to trade fairly with the EU.
Mr Frost mentioned this in a joint statement from himself and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier last week.
He said “significant divergences” remain on the matter, though talks resumed yesterday.
The EU and UK have to agree and ratify a post-Brexit trade deal before December 31, otherwise the two will have to trade on World Trade Organisation rules.
Analysts say such a scenario would lead to high tariffs being applied to some sectors such as the car industry – 10 percent – and the dairy industry – more than 35 percent.
Regarding the likelihood of a deal, Irish premier Michael Martin told RTE: “My gut instinct is that it is 50-50 right now.”
Meanwhile Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney has said “we are more likely to get a deal than not”.