Nice Britain tells the EU: Down by Sunday night or we'll go
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab arrives on Downing Street in London
By Alistair Smout and Paul Sandle
LONDON (Reuters) – The UK told the European Union on Thursday that it should make substantial concessions to break the impasse in Brexit trade talks by the end of the weekend and clarify the final of the five-year-old Brexit crisis.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Union Director General Ursula von der Leyen gave each other time until the end of the weekend to seal a new trade pact after failing to overcome the persistent cracks at a "lively" turbot dinner on Wednesday.
"There is still some leeway to continue talking, but there are still significant differences," Foreign Minister Dominic Raab told BBC TV, adding that both sides would have to take stock over the weekend.
"In my opinion, Sunday is an important moment," Raab told Sky News. "You never say never in these conversations, but I think we have to get some finality."
The pound extended its losses against the dollar and euro by 0.6% against the dollar at $ 1.3318 at 0829 GMT GBP = D3. Against the euro it fell by around 0.7% to 90.755 pence EURGBP = D3.
Raab said the main points of contention – fisheries and equal obligations – are narrow but a matter of principle for the UK.
"Significant movement is needed on both issues," he said in order for talks to continue beyond Sunday.
The UK officially left the EU in January, but has since been in a transition phase of staying in the EU's single market and customs union, meaning the rules on trade, travel and business have stayed the same.
That ends on December 31st. By then, unless there is an agreement to protect roughly $ 1 trillion in annual trade from tariffs and quotas, businesses on both sides will suffer.
In a world already grappling with the economic costs of COVID-19, if new rules are not agreed to regulate everything from auto parts to camembert, it would confuse boundaries, shock financial markets and sow chaos through supply chains .
Tesco (OTC 🙂 Chairman John Allan has warned that food prices will rise if Britain leaves EU orbit without an agreement. Raab, when asked about the comment, said there could be some changes in food prices.
Johnson portrays Brexit as an opportunity to give the UK a fully independent, more agile economy. The EU powers fear that London wants the best of both worlds – preferential access to EU markets, but with the advantage of setting its own rules.
This would undermine the post-World War II project to tie the destroyed nations of Europe – especially Germany and France – to a global trading power.
The EU wants the UK to remain bound by the bloc's labor, social and environmental standards, as well as state aid rules for government business grants.
However, Raab said the EU's position on a level playing field had "hardened".
"There is the material level playing field and then the remedial action … but let's be clear that the EU has solidified its position," he told BBC Radio.
Ireland's Commissioner Mairead McGuinness said she believed there was "a deal to be made" with the UK, but it was impossible to predict whether the negotiations would be successful.
"I hope we all get a Christmas present over the weekend. An early one," Financial Services Commissioner McGuinness told Ireland's RTE Radio.