With just one week to go before the EU’s November 19 negotiation deadline, a Brexit no deal is edging closer as torturous talks go down to the wire with signs of an agreement nowhere in sight. After nearly five years of Brexit talks, the EU and Britain are making a last ditch attempt to clinch a thin trade deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual imports and exports from 2021.
But so far there has been no breakthrough, with remaining sticking points on economic fair play, fisheries or settling disputes.
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The UK left the EU last January but the trade deal would kick in when it leaves informal membership – known as the transition period – in nine weeks time.
Boris Johnson could walk away without a Brexit deal
The EU wants a deal by mid-November in order for it to be ratified by the time the transition arrangements expire and the UK leaves the customs union and single market.
But officials on both sides are pessimistic about a deal being reached this week, with time running out for an agreement to be in place by the time the UK’s transitional arrangements expire at the end of the year.
Sources told how a delay was likely as post-Brexit trade talks in London to break a deadlock are expected to run through the end of this week.
If the negotiators fail to overcome the technical and political differences, Britain and the EU would fall back on World Trade Organization rules
Ambassadors of the 27 EU member states in Brussels will not be updated on the talks at a regular meeting on Wednesday and the issue is now pencilled in for their meeting on November 18.
In Westminster, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Time is in short supply and for our part we continue to work very hard to seek to bridge the gaps which remain between our two positions.”
While a EU source said “next week is a year away in Brexit world”.
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EU sources said they now expected negotiators to come up with an agreed text in the middle of next week
Sticking points on economic fair play, fisheries or settling disputes remain
However, in a sign that the estranged allies are still pushing for an agreement, EU sources said they now expected negotiators to come up with an agreed text in the middle of next week, unless talks collapse or there is a breakthrough earlier.
The EU diplomat said: “The real cut-off point is late next week.”
If a deal can be done before the transition period ends on December 31, the two sides would sign more than 1,000 pages of international treaties covering everything from smoked salmon and cheese to car parts and medicine.
Brexit timeline mapped
But it is now in the hands of Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ultimately decide whether a narrow deal is in his political interest and whether or not the nation will unshackle the Union without a deal.
If the negotiators fail to overcome the technical and political differences, Britain and the EU would fall back on World Trade Organization rules, which include trade barriers.
Mr Johnson says he wants a deal but has repeatedly said that he is ready to leave without a deal – on so-called “Australian terms” – if the EU asks for too many concessions
The EU does not have a free-trade agreement with Canberra and such an arrangement would give Britain trading terms on par with China but worse than many developing countries like Afghanistan or Mali have with the bloc.
The Brussels club has also warned it will not enact any new trade deal if Britain goes ahead with plans to undercut their earlier divorce settlement with Mr Johnson’s Internal Market Bill, in particular for the sensitive Irish border.