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Johnson Says EU Stance on Fish ‘Not Reasonable’: Brexit Update

Ian Wishart and Joe Mayes
·6 min read

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said trade talks with the European Union are in a “serious situation,” warning that a deal will be impossible unless the bloc softens its demands over fisheries.

Johnson spoke with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday night, who said in a separate statement that “big differences” remain between the two sides, particularly on fishing.

For all the rhetoric, the focus on what access EU boats will have to British waters is a sign the two sides may have largely settled their differences over the other major obstacle to an accord: the level competitive playing field for business. Talks will continue in Brussels on Friday, with officials cautiously predicting a deal in coming days.

Read more: Brexit Talks Head for Their Climax With a Fight Over Fishing

Key Developments:

Johnson and von der Leyen set to speak at 7 p.m. London timeMichael Gove says negotiations could carry on beyond ChristmasNissan picks Japan over Sunderland amid Brexit concerns

(All times are U.K.)

Frost Tweets (9 p.m.)

Johnson: EU Demands on Fish ‘Not Reasonable’ (8 p.m.)

Boris Johnson’s message to Ursula Von der Leyen on their phone call on Thursday evening was that the U.K. and EU are unlikely to reach a deal unless the EU makes big changes to its stance on fishing, according to a readout from the U.K. premier’s office.

“The Prime Minister underlined that the negotiations were now in a serious situation,” the readout said. “Time was very short and it now looked very likely that agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially.”

Johnson said the U.K. is making “every effort to accommodate reasonable EU requests on the level playing field,” but the EU’s position on fisheries was “simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly.”

Von der Leyen Tweets (7:45 p.m.)

Gove: Negotiations After Christmas? (5:10 p.m.)

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told a House of Lords Committee that the deadline for getting a deal will be in the days immediately after Christmas.

“Of course, the EU can apply provisional application of the treaty,” he said, referring to the process allowing the EU to implement a deal before it’s formally ratified by the European Parliament.

In London, Parliament could be recalled from its vacation to approve any Brexit deal rapidly. “We will want to ensure Parliament has a say and a chance to scrutinize any agreement,” Gove said.

Withdrawal Agreement Adopted (3:30 p.m.)

The EU-U.K. joint committee agreed that the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol on Northern Ireland -- part of the Brexit divorce deal agreed last year -- will be implemented as planned in January.

The move was a formality after the U.K. withdrew its controversial plans to break international law by rewriting the Brexit divorce agreement.

BOE Warns of Disruption at Year-End (1:30 p.m.)

The Bank of England kept its asset purchase program unchanged on Thursday. Policy makers reiterated that some disruption from Brexit was likely at the turn of the year, but otherwise focused more on the impact of the coronavirus in the near term. They extended a loan program for small businesses by six months, arguing that would help lending to the real economy.

Read more: BOE Ready to Act If Brexit Talks End With No-Deal

U.K.: No Deal Still Most Likely Outcome (1:24 p.m.)

While the U.K. remains committed to seeking a deal with the EU, the most likely outcome of the talks is still no deal, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters in London.

AFP: Barnier Says Agreement ‘Possible’ by Friday (1 p.m.)

Michel Barnier told meeting of members of the European Parliament that it will be “difficult but possible” to reach a post-Brexit agreement by Friday, AFP reported, citing unidentified sources. The EU’s chief negotiator noted that difference persist on fisheries, a subject that is particularly sensitive for France and the Netherlands.

European Parliament Sets Deadline (12:15 p.m)

The European Parliament said it will hold an extraordinary plenary session in late December to ratify any Brexit deal -- as long as one is struck by midnight on Sunday.

Technically, a deal could be implemented provisionally even if the European Parliament hadn’t voted on it. Alternatively, Barnier has suggested Britain could face a short period after Dec. 31 without a trade deal in place while it waited for the European Parliament to vote on it.

Weber: Need Deal by Sunday (11 a.m.)

Manfred Weber, head of the European People’s Party, said the European Parliament should only ratify a deal if it gets it by Sunday.

“The agreement is too important to rush through,” he tweeted. “We owe it to the people and businesses in our constituencies who will be heavily affected by Brexit to scrutinize the deal appropriately. After Sunday, we don’t believe this would still be possible.”

Read more: A Brexit Vote on Christmas Day? The Dash to Ratify Any Agreement

U.K. Pushes on With Internal Market Bill (11 a.m.)

The U.K. government said it will press on with its Internal Market Bill, despite it being rejected by the Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

The legislation, which previously contained controversial provisions that would have allowed ministers to break international law, is designed to avoid trade barriers arising within the U.K. after Brexit.

Lawmakers in Scotland and Wales have said the bill constitutes a power grab by Westminster, and will force them to accept products in their markets even if they’re made to lower standards. The Welsh government has threatened legal action against the U.K. if it proceeds with the bill.

Barnier Tweets (10:20 a.m.)

U.K.’s Gove Says Working Day and Night (10:15 a.m.)

U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said negotiators are working “day and night” to reach a trade deal with the EU.

“We will be doing everything in order to secure a good free trade agreement,” Gove told the House of Commons on Thursday. “We’re going the extra mile to continue the negotiations.”

Parliament -- which begins its Christmas vacation later Thursday -- could be recalled next week to approve any deal, Gove said.

BBC: U.K., U.S. in Talks Over Mini-Deal (Earlier)

The Trump administration is in talks with the U.K. to sign a mini-deal to reduce tariffs, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told BBC News.

Nissan Picks Japan Over Sunderland Amid Brexit Worry (Earlier)

Nissan Motor Co. has opted to ship an upcoming electric vehicle to Europe from Japan rather than produce it in the U.K., where one of its largest factories faces an existential risk from a hard Brexit.

Read more: Nissan Decides Against Making EV in U.K. Over Brexit Worries

Retailers Seek Port Disruption Inquiry (Earlier)

Britain’s top retailers and food manufacturers are demanding lawmakers investigate disruption at U.K. ports that has caused shipping costs to soar and raised doubts over the stability of supply chains after the country completes its split from the EU.

Read more: Retailers Seek Port Disruption Inquiry as Brexit Pressure Mounts

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