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Differences still separate Brussels and London from the agreement

The optimism that the EU and the UK agree on the terms of their future trade relationship appears to be more of a mirage. A senior diplomatic official said Thursday that things they still have to agree on are quite substantial.

The issues have been the same since the negotiation began in February: access to the United Kingdom’s fishing waters, the state aid scheme and the regulatory similarity between the two markets.

Besides, some Member States consider that the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is stretching the mandate given to him by the 27. According to diplomatic sources, in some cases, the capitals ask Barnier to be more transparent with the details of the papers being exchanged with London. However, they still trust the French politician without questioning his work.

Other partners, such as France itself, are more uneasy about the terms of the fisheries. Paris has already warned that the member states’ unity is required to approve the agreement. Although it represents only about 600 million euros in the bilateral relationship, diplomatic sources acknowledge that it is a politically sensitive issue in France.

If on the community side, they believe that London has to move to seal the future relationship, the British think that the step must come from the EU.

British Education Secretary Gavin Williamson stated that good progress is being made. Still, they are going to make an agreement that is suitable for Britain if such an agreement is available. He added that they are not going to sign something that is to their disadvantage.

Decisive hours

Diplomatic sources insist that the next few hours will be decisive to know if it is possible to close an agreement that avoids the reintroduction of tariffs, and damages the commercial exchange between the two at a challenging economic time.

The matter will probably reach the videoconference of the EU leaders next Thursday and Friday. They will have more clarity about the possibilities of achieving a successful conclusion, or if they must prepare new contingency plans.

Internal Market Law

The final stage of the negotiation will coincide with the British Parliament’s debate of the controversial Internal Market Law next week. This law has further clouded the dialogue between both parties. The EU accuses London of violating the Brexit withdrawal agreement and the Irish protocol signed last year to prevent a border on the island that affects peace between communities. The London government itself recognized that its project violates international law in a specific and limited way.

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