Negotiations are still going ahead, with the leaders of both parties, Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen closely involved and in regular contact with each other, aiming to get a Brexit deal breakthrough in the next couple of days.
The ‘final push’
Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Barnier, Brussel’s chief negotiator, said the EU bloc was making the “final push” to strike the deal in time. With so many deadlines missed, the British PM said he is prepared to negotiate all the way through to the 31st December. Ministers have emphasized there will be no further extensions, so the pressure to get this done now is strong.
The negotiations are set to pause on Thursday 24th December, which has equally been set as the new deadline. Getting a deal done by Christmas will give the EUs legal services time to draw up a letter, as by now there is not enough time left for the EU Parliament to ratify the deal before the transition period ends.
Despite their shared ambition of having a deal agreed by the end of negotiations period on Thursday, both the EU and the UK say the talks may need to be continued after the holidays.
‘Deal more likely than no-deal’
This morning, Robert Jenrick, said that he is “reasonably optimistic” that there will be a deal between London and Brussels. He added however that “There’s still the same serious areas of disagreement,”, referring to the issue of access to the British fisheries. He explained this was because “no sufficient progress” has been made yet, with regards to those issues.
This more optimistic point of view is shared by another British official who said “Nothing is impossible,” adding, “Getting home for Christmas is something everyone would like.” Despite the remaining disagreements a Tory MP assured “We have confidence in the prime minister and great confidence in David Frost”. He also added that the lesser issues, such as the level playing field and the governance of a trade treaty was “very nearly there”.
“The sense I would have is that given the progress that has been made, that I think a deal is more likely than less likely,” said Ireland’s prime minister, Micheal Martin when speaking to Dublin reporters on Tuesday night.
However, even if the deal is reached in time, the European Parliament already announced that it will not hold a ratification vote before the end of the year, which has forced the EU to explore a stopgap approach known as “provisional application”.
UK facing a premature Brexit already
As a result of the new strain of coronavirus affecting the UK, many European leaders chose to close their borders to people travelling from the UK. This included France’s president, Emmanuel Macron. What followed was miles-long queues of trucks parked all around Dover, stuck at the crossing.
Guy Verhofstadt, an EU Parliament former Brexit coordinator said these queues in Kent are a sign of what the UK is to expect post-Brexit. He tweeted: “We forgot what borders look like. Some thought they would remain open with or without the EU. They will now start to understand what leaving the EU really means.”
What was happening in Dover, with lorry drivers having no access to toilets, food or water, was described by some as a humanitarian crisis. This time the closure of borders was sudden and not expected, but is the UK prepared for the planned changes at border-crossings as from January 1st?
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