The UK and the EU could be on the verge of signing an agreement

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) is greeted by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (R) in the Berlaymont building at the EU headquarters in Brussels on 9 December 2020.


LONDON – Just days before the end of the year, Britain and the European Union could be on the verge of signing a long-awaited post-Brexit trade deal.

On Tuesday, the EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, said the bloc was making a “final push” to conclude a Brexit trade deal with Britain before 31 December.

“We are indeed at a crucial moment,” Barnier told reporters on his way to inform 27 ambassadors. “We are giving it one last push. In 10 days, Britain … will leave the single market.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have engaged in a series of “hotline” talks, FT reported on Wednesday, in an attempt to reach an agreement before the end of the day.

However, there are still disagreements over fishing rights and a few other issues.

The EU wants to maintain access to UK waters for its fishing fleets, while the UK wants to severely limit these fishing rights. A scenario without agreement could see the EU’s access to British waters come to an abrupt end, and vice versa, and the UK has already threatened to launch cannon boats to protect British waters.

There are concerns that some fishing fleets could ignore any restrictions, leading to potential collisions. These are not unheard of; there have been physical battles, known as ‘shell wars’, between the British and French fishing fleets in recent years amid fishing disputes.

UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News on Wednesday that “serious areas of disagreement” remained, both in the fisheries sector and in creating “a level playing field” for businesses.

“I’m still pretty optimistic, but there’s no news to report to you this morning,” he said. “” There is not enough progress at this time. The Prime Minister does not consider that it is an agreement that can register us “.

However, there have been positive reports of talks on Brexit in the last 24 hours, ITV political editor Robert Peston said on Tuesday that an agreement could be reached on Wednesday.

The pound rose about 0.5% against the dollar to $ 1.34 as traders placed bets on a signed deal.

If the UK and the EU do not reach an agreement by 31 December, both sides could impose border controls and impose taxes on each other’s goods, as trade will return to World Trade Organization conditions. This could lead to price changes in supermarkets and shops.

Britain officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020, but leaders have been given 11 months to agree on rules that will dictate life for Britain and Europe after Brexit.

– Holly Ellyatt from CNBC contributed to this article.