According to the news outlet, which claims to have acquired “confidential notes,” there is a consensus within Brussels that a deal is well within reaching distance, but there is uncertainty as to whether the deal will be struck due to remaining disagreements with London.
The notes were allegedly from a meeting between the EU’s chief diplomats that was held in Brussels on the morning of Friday, November 20.
The European Commission’s Secretary General, Ilze Juhansone, who was standing in for Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator who is self-isolating with Covid-19, said according to the notes that the legal text of a trade deal with the UK was “finalised … covering almost all subjects.”
However, sticking points persist in three areas well known to be causes of contention between London and Brussels: fisheries, governance and competition rules.
“On these matters, the UK has not made significant moves,” Ms. Juhansone told the meeting according to the notes, adding that “there will be no economic partnership” in the absence of an agreement in these key areas.
According to Sky, the notes say that Boris Johnson’s government is persisting in its position that fisheries and access to British waters for EU member states must be annually negotiated.
Reportedly, other core areas of remaining disagreement include the UK’s granting of healthcare access to workers from the EU, financial services and intellectual property.
The Secretary General of the EU’s foreign affairs, Helga Schmid, was at the meeting and according to Sky told attendees that the UK had shown “a lack of eagerness to have an agreement on foreign, security and defence policy.” However, she did add that there are gradual changes in the UK’s position regarding this, without providing details.
Ms. Juhansone proceeded to tell the meeting that there was a “commitment to find workable solutions” to the remaining differences on both sides in order to push out a deal by the time the transition period expires, on December 31.
There is some concern that, even if a deal were to be reached that was pleasing to both sides, it would be difficult to get it ratified in time due to the tight deadline. Therefore, proposals have been made to push it through the legislative process in Brussels. One would be for the deal to be written only in English, however France has dismissed this as “sacrificing legal certainty.” Another proposal would reportedly see the EU parliament hold an emergency session between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Reportedly, a decision is yet to be made on which proposal shall be pursued.