In Paris, pressure was incraesed by yet another warning for businesses to prepare for a drastic rupture, possibly without a deal.
After months of talks, Britain and the EU appear to remain deadlocked on the key issues of fishing and rules to ensure fair economic competition. If there is any hope for a deal, neither side is letting on.
“Intensive discussions continue in Brussels this week,” said EU Commission spokesman Daniel Ferrie, refusing to elaborate.
Negotiating teams led by Michel Barnier on the EU side and David Frost on the British end have struggled for months to make progress and have three fundamental issues left to deal with.
The EU wants to make sure British firms will not go low on regulation and high on subsidies to undercut EU companies if any deal on zero tariffs and zero quotas is agreed upon. The member states have also become ardent in demanding legal guarantees on governance of any deal since Johnson last month introduced legislation that breaches the Brexit withdrawal agreement he himself signed with the EU only last year — a move that has demolished trust between the two sides.
“Our position is simple clear and steadfast: If there is no level playing field, there is no access to our market,” said France’s EU minister, Clement Beaune.
The last crucial issue is about fishing rights, which affects only a fraction of GDP on both sides but has gained symbolic heft. Britain demands to fully rule its waves, while France and others have big fishing industries to accommodate.