EU and UK in ‘final push’ to reach Brexit deal, says Commission Vice-President

The comments by Valdis Dombrovskis on Wednesday come with the two sides locked in talks in Brussels in an effort to resolve the remaining obstacles to a deal.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

18 Nov 2020

The remaining sticking points are said to include fisheries, state aid rules and the Irish border issue.

Dombrovskis, speaking at a news conference in Brussels, said the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier had updated EU commissioners on the talks at a meeting with the College on Wednesday.

He told reporters, “Michel Barnier said there was a great intensity in the negotiations and they are now in a final push to reach a deal.”

“However, there are still some important elements to be resolved and some substantial work to do.”

When asked about the 31 December deadline for the end to the current transition period, the Commissioner replied, “We have seen so many deadlines come and go but one deadline that we cannot move is 1 January when the current transitional period ends.”

“The two sides are determined and we are working with the UK on all the remaining issues. In terms of the ratification process, Parliament and Council have to give the green light and Michel Barnier has said that time will be necessary for them to do this” European Commission spokesman

“We are now in the last moments to reach an agreement,” said the official, who was outlining the Commission's autumn economic package.

Speaking separately, a Commission spokesman also refused to speculate on the possibility, flagged up by some parts of the media, that the talks could run into next week and even beyond.

He pointed to a tweet by Barnier on Monday where he said the two sides “remain determined” but stressed the need for a “lot of patience” in efforts to strike an agreement.

Echoing current calls by MEPs, he said the Commission had “always said” there must be time at the end of the talks for Parliament and Council to discuss any agreement.

“The two sides are determined and we are working with the UK on all the remaining issues. In terms of the ratification process, Parliament and Council have to give the green light and Michel Barnier has said that time will be necessary for them to do this. But we cannot say exactly how long that will take.”

“Michel Barnier said there was a great intensity in the negotiations and they are now in a final push to reach a deal. However, there are still some important elements to be resolved and some substantial work to do”

Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Executive Vice-President

He said fisheries was one of the topics where there is still a “great deal of divergence” and that the priority was the “quality of the deal over any timings.”

He said, “We want to defend the rights of EU citizens and their interests, so any deal will have to be a high quality deal. The conditions must be right [for a deal] and we have not deviated from this from the outset.”

The spokesman also told reporters that the Commission was working on preparedness and had already published several guidelines to this end.

“We are not thinking of other scenarios but, yes, one scenario is a No Deal on 31 December. We want a deal but for this reason preparations are in place [for a No Deal].”

He was also asked if it was possible for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to remain in contact with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the talks despite his having to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone with Coronavirus

He said, “We know how difficult it is for leaders to conduct their business in the current difficult circumstances, but I am sure both sides will continue to have contacts and hope this will be the case.”

The spokesman also said the Commission will table proposals under its Brexit adjustment fund. This, he said, was part of the €1.8bn EU budget and recovery package deal struck last week which aims to counter the adverse impact of Brexit.

“The Commission will put forward a legislative proposal on this in near future,” he added.

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