BBC’s Katya Adler exposes Brexit ‘worry’ for EU leaders and says trade deal not YET dead

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Brexit negotiations are currently ongoing with both sides scrambling to agree on a deal before the end of the transition period on December 31. But key issues such as fishing, level playing field and governance have gridlocked talks.

While addressing the European Council in Brussels today, the Commission President claimed the UK would remain “free to decide what they want to do” under a proposed trade deal and said the EU would “simply adapt” the condition for access to the single market.

But the BBC’s Europe Editor has exposed the “worry” for leaders of European Union member states – who fear they would not be able to respond quickly enough if they felt they were being undercut by the UK – and how that would resonate with their voters.

The BBC journalist also claimed Ms von der Leyen’s comments are not a change for the EU’s position.

Ms Adler tweeted: “Is this a change in the EU position? I’d argue no.

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“The EU has gradually shifted focus as it has become increasingly aware that post-Brexit UK will want to make up its own rules and regulations for business; deciding for itself which industries it wants to invest in and promote.

“Despite this, EU would rather have a trade and security deal with UK than not.

“So Brussels has been pondering how it can live with UK’s sovereign right to diverge, protect single market and still have a deal.

“Answer: Focus more on governance, not just level playing field.”

But she admitted it is “far from being that straight-forward”.

Ms Adler continued: “On EU side, Brussels doesn’t want to have to wait for some independent body/arbitration panel to judge whether [it] has the right to retaliate if it believes there is ‘unfair competition’ afoot.

“It worries a legal process like that could take too long and in the meantime, EU businesses could flounder or go under completely.

“EU leaders worry about how they could justify that to their voters.

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“The words ‘level playing field’ or ‘competition regulations’ may sound bewilderingly abstract but, Danish prime minister pointed out yesterday, that each EU leader is thinking about protecting jobs/ businesses in their country – be it Denmark, Germany, France or the Netherlands, when it comes to this deal with the UK.

“So, EU is pushing to be able to retaliate even before a judgement on unfair competition has been reached.

“Something that the UK clearly says it cannot accept.

“Can this key disagreement be resolved?

“Maybe. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is described by his team as being in a ‘determined, positive mood’.

“The UK says it’s willing to go the extra mile…”

Today, the European Commission President said she would decide by this Sunday whether a deal is possible.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson said an exit with no deal in place was “very, very likely”.

Ms von der Leyen’s intervention comes after she warned EU27 leaders a no deal Brexit is the most likely outcome from negotiations.

According to an EU official, she said the “probability of a no deal is higher than of a deal”.

She warned attempting to reach agreements on key sticking points such as the so-called level-playing field and fishing rights would be “difficult”.

Mr Johnson extended the negotiations after the October deadline came and went.

There is now less than a month until the transition period ends on December 31.

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