United Kingdom to signal compromise on fisheries and ‘level playing field’

Irish PM Varadkar says govt may need to prepare for ‘no-trade deal’ Brexit

Johnson is expected to work out the best way forward with European Union chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel at a summit held shortly before the June deadline to extend the talks by up to two years.

Britain formally left the European Union nations last January but still largely operates as if it were a member, thanks to a standstill grace period which expires on December 31.

"The UK has been taking a step back - two steps back, three steps back - from the original commitments", the EU's chief negotiator said.

A European official, talking condition of anonymity, warned: "It's not at all a decisive week, but a predictable one, which will just confirm we're at a dead end".

He said, therefore, the natural next step in trade negotiations was "damage limitation", and if no agreement were reached that would result in "even more consequences" at the worst time possible, given the coronavirus pandemic. "And then of course those will be added to the already very serious consequences of the coronavirus crisis", he said.

Barnier has been given a mandate to seek an ambitious overarching agreement to oversee a so-called "level playing field" in manufacturing, labour and environmental standards.

"So I think that we have a joint responsibility in this very serious crisis, which affects so many families. with so many deaths, so many people sick, so many people unemployed.to do everything we can to reach an agreement and I very much hope that we will do so", he said, adding that London and Brussels could not afford to break off their almost 50-year partnership without arrangements for the future.

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And, rather than placing this under the aegis of a unique EU-UK pact, they want to pursue a series of deals in separate sectors such as trade, fisheries, aviation and energy.

Despite a process described by some insiders as "tetchy" and a public exchange of letters between Barnier and his United Kingdom counterpart David Frost, Downing Street insisted progress could be made.

But, with so much at stake, nobody expects the talks to break down irretrievably either.

"I think there will be a reaction in France by the fishermen".

"Barnier and Frost are saying the same thing, a no deal is perfectly plausible". But a Downing Street spokesman said in remarks cited by the Financial Times on Monday that Brussels' current demand for regulatory alignment was "novel and unbalanced" and not equal to any other trade deal between the bloc and a third party.

He expected little from this week's talks, nor from Johnson and von der Leyen's meeting by the end of the month. "If we get a compromise it will come very late in the talks, in the autumn".

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