EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier has repeated that chances of an agreement is “very slim”
EU Chief Negotiator has said that he doubts if an agreement can be reached between the European Union and the United Kingdom as negotiations between the two sides remain in stalemate over fisheries, the level-playing field and governance.
Earlier this morning, Mr Barnier was briefing General Affairs Council of the Member States when he apparently told Ministers that reaching an agreement with the UK was now “very slim”, but he would endure to continue negotiations over the next few days but warned countries to prepare for a no-deal scenario.
The news of a no-deal scenario is not what the EU fishing fleet are looking for. As of 01 January 2021, it would see the fleet locked out of UK waters. For the Irish fishing industry, it would mean up to 400 extra fishing vessels in their waters and there have been huge concerns about the irreparable damage this number of fishing boats could cause in a biologically sensitive area.
Around lunchtime today there was an announcement made by the Chairs of the EU-UK Joint Committee with both sides upon reaching an agreement in principle on the ‘Northern Ireland Protocol’. The statement which released read:
“The co-chairs of the EU-UK Joint Committee – European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and the UK Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt Hon Michael Gove – yesterday held a political meeting to address the outstanding issues related to the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement. Ensuring that the Withdrawal Agreement, in particular the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, is fully operational at the end of the transition period, i.e. as of 1 January 2021, is essential. The Protocol protects the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions, maintaining peace, stability and prosperity on the island of Ireland.
Following intensive and constructive work over the past weeks by the EU and the UK, the two co-chairs can now announce their agreement in principle on all issues, in particular with regard to the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.
An agreement in principle has been found in the following areas, amongst others: Border Control Posts/Entry Points specifically for checks on animals, plants and derived products, export declarations, the supply of medicines, the supply of chilled meats, and other food products to supermarkets, and a clarification on the application of State aid under the terms of the Protocol.
The parties have also reached an agreement in principle with respect to the decisions the Joint Committee has to take before 1 January 2021. In particular, this concerns the practical arrangements regarding the EU’s presence in Northern Ireland when UK authorities implement checks and controls under the Protocol, determining criteria for goods to be considered “not at risk” of entering the EU when moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, the exemption of agricultural and fish subsidies from State aid rules, the finalisation of the list of chairpersons of the arbitration panel for the dispute settlement mechanism so that the arbitration panel can start operating as of next year, as well as the correction of errors and omissions in Annex 2 of the Protocol.
In view of these mutually agreed solutions, the UK will withdraw clauses 44, 45 and 47 of the UK Internal Market Bill, and not introduce any similar provisions in the Taxation Bill.
1. Next steps
This agreement in principle and the resulting draft texts will now be subject to respective internal procedures in the EU and in the UK. Once this is done, a fifth regular meeting of the EU-UK Joint Committee will be convened to formally adopt them. This will take place in the coming days and before the end of the year.”
This news will be welcomed by the European Union and businesses in Northern Ireland but is still being closely watch by Irish leaders and political leaders in the EU as the Internal Market Bill and the Finance Bill works its way through Westminster.”
British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson will be in Brussels tomorrow evening to meet face-to-face with European Commission President, Ursula van der Leyen over dinner on the issue of the negotiations. The meeting was not about reaching an agreement but instead it was reported to be held to see how either side could facilitate the negotiations.