rfi– The EU’s chief negotiator told the European Parliament on Friday that post-Brexit trade talks had reached their “moment of truth”, with the bloc engaged in one final attempt to agree a deal with the UK.
Michel Barnier said mere hours remained for both sides to find agreement on new trade rules to take effect by 1 January, when the Brexit transition period expires and the UK leaves the EU’s tariff-free single market and customs union.
“I cannot tell you what will be the outcome of this final push in the negotiation,” Barnier told MEPs in Brussels, where the talks are taking place. “That’s why we must be ready for all scenarios.”
There was still a chance of a deal, Barnier said, but conceded the path was “very narrow”.
EU fishing rights in British waters is the biggest remaining obstacle to reaching an accord. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already warned a “no deal” scenario was likely unless the EU “substantially” changed its position.
Barnier argues that “a credible period of adjustment” is needed if EU boats are to be forced out of British waters, which are rich with fish.
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A trade deal would ensure there are no tariffs and quotas on goods between both sides of the channel, avoiding chaos at the borders.
While EU lawmakers say the terms of any deal would need to be delivered by Sunday if they are to be ratified before January, the timeline is tighter in Britain, where parliament is due to adjourn for Christmas break from Friday.