London / Brussels (dpa) – In the final phase of talks on a Brexit trade pact, both sides increased pressure. Negotiations continued in London on Friday after a meeting late Thursday.
If an agreement is not reached in time despite intensive efforts, there will be tariffs and high trade barriers between Great Britain and the continent from the turn of the year.
British negotiators were complaining about alleged new demands from the EU, according to British media. This slowed down the conversations. In addition, London had announced it would reinstate the controversial clauses of its Internal Market law, which will return to the House of Commons on Monday. The bill met violent outrage in Brussels for calling into question parts of the exit deal already signed.
Meanwhile, Charles Michel, president of the EU Council, warned of the failure of the negotiations in the event of a veto by member states. “Member States will have to decide, as will the British side,” Michel said in Brussels. “Member States have to say yes or no, and if one side of the table says no, we have a no deal.”
Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would only approve a treaty if his country’s long-term interests are preserved. This was seen as a threat of a right of veto.
Michel emphasized that the negotiations with London were not over yet. “We don’t know what’s on the table.” You will see that for the next few hours or days. The EU wants an agreement, but not at any price. The President of the Council reiterated the three bottlenecks for the EU: a level playing field, fishing and instruments to punish violations.
It took two to come to an agreement, Michel added. Britain also has a responsibility. The EU is a powerful force when it comes to rules and standards. Britain had to decide what standards it wanted in the future.
During the week, British media had reported euphoric pizza deliveries late at night to negotiating teams. This was taken as a sign that an agreement could be within reach. A breakthrough is hardly expected before Monday.
If no agreement has been reached by then, the UK Single Market Act threatens to seriously disrupt the negotiating atmosphere. The planned law is intended to reverse parts of the EU exit deal signed last fall, in the event of a no deal. The House of Lords removed the controversial clauses last month, but the government said they should now be reintroduced.
The so-called Northern Ireland Protocol, which is intended to guarantee an open border between British Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU, has been affected.
If such provisions were applied in law, a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland could hardly be avoided. This would make a renewed escalation of violence in Northern Ireland more likely. Until the conclusion of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, a majority of the Catholic supporters of a united Ireland and the predominantly Protestant supporters of the union with Great Britain faced each other in a civil war that lasted decades.
The UK government had called the law a “safety net”. However, Northern Ireland’s minister Brandon Lewis had admitted that this would be in violation of international law. However, the violation of the law is only “limited and specific”.