Brexit: Simon Coveney says EU’s demands ‘not unreasonable’
With the Brexit trade talks on the brink of collapse, the European Commission today published a series of unilateral contingency measures to maintain air and road transport links between the UK and EU in the event of a no deal. Eurocrats hope to convince Boris Johnson to offer significant concessions in the wrangling over the future relationship by demanding he mirrors the bloc’s draconian rules as the price for allowing British planes and lorries to operate in the bloc with a trade deal. The Commission has gone further than its demands in the trade negotiations and is insisting the UK agrees regulations “equivalent” to the EU’s in order to take part in a no deal scheme.
British officials dismissed the bloc’s proposals, insisting Downing Street will soon set out its own plans.
A Government spokesman said: “This kind of statement from the EU is expected – they set out a similar proposition in September 2019.
“The UK government has already set out its own plans in the event no FTA is reached and we’ve said that we would discuss practical arrangements with the EU.
“The EU’s contingency measures were only set out this morning and we will look at the details closely.”
The EU’s contingency document states: “A level playing field requires that, even after the end of the transition period, the UK continues to apply sufficiently high and comparable standards.”
The EU is also demanding “status quo” access to Britain’s fishing waters for European vessels to prevent violent clashes between trawlermen and coastguards.
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They want “continued reciprocal access by EU and UK vessels to each other’s waters” for up to 12 months after a no-deal Brexit.
While the plans are not officially linked, EU chiefs will use the political threat of banning UK planes from the bloc unless the Prime Minister caves in the row over future fishing rights and common standards.
The Government spokesman added: “Whether we leave the transition period on Canada or Australia style arrangements, we will take back control of our waters.
“We would never accept arrangements and access to UK fishing waters and which are incompatible with our future status as an independent coastal state.”
Brussels published the documents ahead of what could be the final two days of trade negotiations between UK and EU officials.
UK Brexit envoy Lord Frost met with EU counterpart Michel Barnier after Mr Johnson warned a decision could be taken to quit the talks as early as Sunday.
Following her showdown talks with the Prime Minister, Ursula von der Leyen today said they had a “difficult” time in finding a potential compromise.
She said: “It was a good conversation but it is difficult. We are willing to grant access to the single market to our British friends – it is the largest single market in the world.
“But the conditions have to be fair. They have to be fair for our workers and for our companies, and this fine balance of fairness has not been achieved so far.
“Our negotiators are still working and we will take a decision on Sunday.”
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The top eurocrat also insisted the bloc would be “prepared for all eventualities, including not having a deal in place with the UK on January 1, 2021”.
Ahead of the summit, European Council chief Charles Michel said he would push to “defend the European interests” in the battles over access to Britain’s coastal waters and the so-called level playing field.
He said: “We want to continue negotiating but we also want to continue defending the European interests.”
Leaders at an EU summit in Brussels insisted the bloc should ready itself for a no-deal Brexit.
Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven today said he was “more gloomy” after Mr Johnson left the Belgian capital without a Brexit trade deal.
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Mr Lofven said: “There was no progress made in recent days. It’s problematic, of course… We’ve always said that we are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. And, now it seems like it’s a difficult situation.”
Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda said the bloc’s no-deal contingency measures should be in place “from the first minutes” after the end of the transition period.
With the Brexit talks still blocked by hardline EU states, Irish premier Micheal Martin urged his colleagues to “every thing we possibly can to get an agreement”.
He is fearful that the consequences of Britain quitting the bloc without a trade agreement would have significant repercussions for Dublin.
He added: “It is very difficult, and from talking to colleagues no one understates the challenges that lay ahead.”
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