No 10 startled by EU insistence that UK accept Brexit trade terms – Guardian
- Downing Street reacted in dismay as Emmanuel Macron led EU leaders in warning Boris Johnson that he must swallow the bloc’s conditions, in what appeared to be taken as a direct challenge to the British prime minister’s threat to walk out on the talks.
- The intervention was evidently regarded as incendiary in No 10 as Johnson had said he would make a decision on Friday on whether there were grounds to continue the talks. In September, he had said that without agreement by the time of this summit the government would “move on” to focus on no-deal preparations.
- Downing Street had been seeking a commitment to round-the-clock talks along with work on a joint legal text. Barnier said in a post-meeting press conference that there was a prospect of a deal and he would “speed up” and continue with “intensified” talks, in what appeared to be an attempt to give Johnson a reason to continue the negotiations.
- The outstanding issues in the trade and security talks remain how to hold both sides to the deal, EU access to British fishing waters and the so-called level playing field demands, sought by Brussels to ensure neither side can undercut standards or over-subsidise parts of the economy to give its companies a competitive advantage.
- On level playing field provisions, the UK has agreed on non-regression from current environmental, labour and social standards but Brussels wants a “ratchet” mechanism so that this baseline develops over time.
- The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said he remained “cautiously optimistic” that agreement would be found. But he added: “For a breakthrough, movement from UK side is really necessary.” The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said an agreement would not be secured at any cost. “It has to be a fair agreement from which both sides can profit,” she said.
Brexit: EU leaders call for UK trade talks to continue – BBC
- EU leaders have called for post-Brexit trade talks to continue beyond the end of the week – the deadline suggested by Boris Johnson.
- At a two-day summit in Brussels beginning on Thursday, they said progress in key areas was “not sufficient” to reach a deal. In a conclusions document issued after a discussion on Brexit, the EU expressed “concern” that not enough progress has been made in key areas for a deal to be reached.
- EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said fresh “intensive” talks should aim to reach a deal around the end of October. But his UK counterpart said he was “disappointed” by the EU’s approach. In a tweet, David Frost said he was “surprised” the EU “is no longer committed to working ‘intensively’ to reach a future partnership”.
- He said the EU was expecting “all future moves” toward a deal to come from the UK, which he called an “unusual approach to conducting a negotiation”. He added the prime minister would set out his “approach” to the future of the talks on Friday.
- As the summit got under way, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she would be self-isolating for the second time in a month after a member of her staff tested positive for Covid-19.
- Arriving at the summit, Emmanuel Macron said his country’s fishermen would not “in any situation” be “sacrificed to Brexit”.
Brexit steel safeguard review tests concepts of UK’s best interests – MLex
- UK trade officials face a difficult balancing act between protecting the steel industry and building goodwill with international trading partners after the end of the Brexit transition period. With an EU steel safeguard due to lapse next year, the UK could plant a flag with its own measures to protect the industry — but at the risk of undermining its charm offensive as a newly independent trade partner.
- UK trade officials will have to weigh which industries to protect in their investigation into continuing the steel safeguard rules, and whether it’s worth risking retaliation from partners they might otherwise wish to woo, such as China.
- Preliminarily, the higher-level Department for International Trade has decided to keep the measures for 19 of the 26 products, but officials reached this conclusion by assessing whether there was a British manufacturing base of each product, but not how large that base might be.
- The trade remedies authority will consult with steelmakers, users, processors and traders as part of its probe. The result is expected before May.