EU giving a ‘final push’ to reach Brexit deal, says Barnier

With less than 10 days left till the new year, EU and UK leaders and negotiators intensify talks to reach a trade deal.

Barnier says talks between the UK and EU are 'in a crucial moment' [Johanna Geron/Reuters]

The European Union is giving a “final push” to reach a potential deal on future trading ties between the bloc and the United Kingdom, according to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier.

“We are really in a crucial moment and we are giving it a final push,” said Barnier before he briefed EU member states on the state of negotiations on Tuesday.

“In 10 days, the UK will leave the single market,” Barnier said, highlighting the need for speed to reach a deal.

Leaders and negotiators from the EU and the UK have intensified their struggle to reach a trade deal ahead of the New Year’s Day finish line as the bloc’s member states looked at legal options to do it without formal European Parliament backing.

Nine months of talks have dwindled to just a few days to find a compromise on how to continue trading with as few obstructions and tariffs as possible after the UK left the EU on January 31 and a transition period runs out at the end of this year.

If the talks between Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost fail to reach a breakthrough in the coming days, the UK will leave without a follow-on trade deal.

Standoff over fishing rights

Over the past few days, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have been drawn more and more into the talks and have been in contact by phone seeking to unblock negotiations on the last major outstanding difference – EU fishing rights in UK waters.

Up to January 1, the rights were shared among all EU nations, but with the Brexit departure, the UK regains control over some of its abundant waters.

Now both sides are haggling, seeking to retain as much of those fishing quotas as they can.

If the UK insists on keeping too much for itself, it could see itself punished with tough seafood export tariffs and other measures.

Officials said the EU could live with a cut of up to 25 percent in quotas while the UK wants it to be much more.

The sides are also bickering over a transition period, which Johnson wants to limit to three years while the EU is pushing for seven.

Source: News Agencies