British and European negotiators are unlikely to reach a post-Brexit trade agreement before this weekend’s deadline, sources close to the talks have warned.
Disputes over workers’ rights, environmental protection and “level-playing field” rules continue to be major stumbling blocks, and both sides have repeatedly accused the other of holding an “unrealistic” position on fishing.
But despite the deadlock, “officials think there’s enough progress to warrant carrying on”, says Bloomberg, which reports that talks are expected to continue in Brussels next week. A deal will need to be reached in time for parliamentary ratification on both sides of the Channel before the transition period ends on 31 December.
EU officials “said they now expected negotiators to come up with an agreed text in the middle of next week”, Reuters reports. According to Sky News, Brussels regards next Thursday’s “video-conference summit of EU leaders as the final deadline for a draft Brexit deal”.
If the negotiations prove successful, the deal could be ratified “in a matter of days in the British parliament”, says Bloomberg. However, “the EU side needs longer”, with European lawmakers anxious to scrutinise the agreement text “in committees before a vote in their last plenary session”, which begins on 14 December, the news site adds.
Some European sources fear “an extraordinary sitting of the chamber may need to be arranged for 28 December”, The Guardian reports. That would be just “three days before the end of the transition period when the UK leaves the single market and customs union”.
All the same, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney is striking an upbeat note about the ongoing negotiations.
“If we can’t get a deal done, it will represent an extraordinary failure of politics and diplomacy,” he said. “Everybody wants a deal here.
“And the cost of failure is what will motivate people to hopefully agree to sensible compromise.”