So can a deal be reached between the EU and UK by Sunday, despite the pervading mood of gloom plus a sense – in public at least – that both sides are digging in their heels? It’s difficult but possible #Brexit /1
Today the European Commission chief hit back at the EU-is-in-denial-about-UK-sovereignty claim.Yes, she said, EU was insisting on what it views as ‘fair competition’ rules in exchange for giving the UK preferential access to the single market (tariff +quota free) but she added/2
that UK would remain free – “sovereign, if you wish” were the words she used – to decide what it wanted to do. If UK diverged the EU "would simply adapt conditions for access to our market. It would be the decision of the UK and would apply vice versa,” she said /3
Is this a change in the EU position? I'd argue no. 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 /4
Despite this, EU would rather have a trade + 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 /5
ie How EU (or UK) could take action to protect their businesses if the either side diverges from the deal. So far, so sensible, you might think. But surprise, surprise, it’s far from being that straight-forward /6
On EU side, Brussels doesn’t want to have to wait for some independent body/arbitration panel to judge whether 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 meantime, EU businesses /7
could flounder or go under completely. EU leaders worry how they could justify that to their voters. The words “level playing field” or “competition regulations” may sound bewilderingly abstract but, Danish prime minister pointed out yesterday, that each EU leader /8
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./9
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../10
You can dismiss all this as a PR exercise for public consumption, but the fact that negotiations will continue over the weekend mean neither side has stopped trying.
The problem facing all of us outside the negotiating room, is that there are leaks and assertion a-plenty /11
being made on both sides BUT in the absence of the publication of texts, the only ones who know for sure what’s going on, are the men and women currently sitting opposite each other in closed rooms in Brussels /12
Sunday will be here before we know it. The PM and European Commission Pres say that’s when ‘a decision will be made’. But based on all the other false dawns in these talks, be warned: Sunday’s decision could be ‘deal, ‘no deal’ or ‘let’s keep talking, a little while longer’ /13

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More from @BBCkatyaadler

9 Dec
Merkel speaking to Bundestag about #Brexit Insistent on not compromising the single market to get a deal. Says not sure whether clarity will emerge by tomorrow ie after this evening’s Johnson/von der Leyen dinner in Brussels /1
Important to see here there are no serious Franco/German splits over the current impasse in negotiations. True: Merkel possibly keener on deal being done than Macron. He still hopes France can wrest some business benefits out of ‘a bad situation’. Hopes too that .. /2
His tough stance on fish and public threat of using a veto on a deal that’s ‘not in France’s long term interest’ will play well for him at home politically BUT EU countries all pretty much United behind Barnier’s declaration not to ‘sacrifice the future for the present’ /3
Read 7 tweets
3 Dec
Mire pizza anyone? EU+UK negotiators will work late into the night tonight as they did last night, I’m told. “This is the big push”. EU sources predict the “bulk of outstanding work” on deal could be done in next 24 hours BUT that fine-tuning could take a few more days #Brexit /1
More EU negotiators are making their way to London this afternoon. This, in itself, isn’t remarkable - there can be lots of shuttling between London and Brussels on negotiating weeks BUT the timing makes everything noteworthy right now /2
EU sources tell me that even if/when the outline of a deal is there, there will most likely be a meeting between the PM and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. EU member states could then veto the deal IF they’re unhappy.. /3
Read 6 tweets
2 Dec
Am told Barnier was ‘in good spirits’ when reported back to EU ambassadors this morning on state of play in negotiations ongoing in London BUT that he has ‘reached the edges of his mandate’ and has little more room for manoeuvre in talks with U.K. “Only millimetres left” /1
Of course you’d expect the EU side to say this. But there is a deeply-held belief here that U.K. must now move considerably on 3 STILL OUTSTANDING issues: fish, competition rules, governance- in order for there to be a deal this year /2
EU countries jumpy about concessions being made to U.K. “This is the painful part” said one EU ambassador BUT I don’t detect mistrust in Barnier and team in my conversations.NB Barnier didn’t ask EU countries for more flexibility in negotiating mandate this morning /3
Read 7 tweets
23 Nov
Assumption EU-side is that if a deal will be reached, Boris Johnson will want it to be when -or just after-negotiating teams meet in London, rather than during a ‘Brussels week’. EU attitude is that bottom line: it wants a deal but not bothered how U.K. gov sells it at home /1
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier today said fundamental differences remain between the two sides on core issues But negotiators are expected to meet face-to-face in London later this week-which, potentially, is when Barnier and the PM could emerge from #covid19 self-isolation/2
Adding to the swirl of rumour and speculation about imminent announcement of a deal : we hear a call is being planned later this week between the PM and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.. /3
Read 7 tweets
20 Nov
After a briefing to member states on state of play in EU-U.K. negotiations, EU diplomat says: “Gaps are only slowly shrinking on core issues like level playing field, governance and fisheries.” Says there’s growing concern enough time left #Brexit /1
But diplomat added that EU hopes process can be completed quickly ‘once political decisions have been taken in London’. NB Government making similar statements but pointing finger at EU, calling on Brussels to make the political decisions (compromises) /2
EU diplomat adds that EU will need to ‘ramp up’ contingency plans now in parallel to still trying to pursue a deal. ‘EU needs to prepare for all eventualities’ /3
Read 5 tweets
19 Nov
EU-UK post #Brexit trade talks will continue despite the positive #coronavirus test result for a member of EU negotiating team. That individual, those in direct contact including chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier will self isolate but /1
Negotiations during pandemic have long been a mix of in-person and on-screen negotiations so - I’m briefed - ‘this shouldn’t affect talks too much’ PLUS EU-side insist that ‘technical negotiations have gone as far as can at this stage. It’s now time for political decisions’ /2
Brussels looks to Downing Street now. EU view is: if/when the PM takes the decision that he wants this deal and is willing to make compromises (as EU admits it must too-eg on fish) THEN, I’m told the details to close deal can be ‘sorted in a matter of days’ /3
Read 4 tweets

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