France Says EU-U.K. Could Agree on Brexit Deal in a Few Days

Politicians from the European Union and the U.K. say a post-Brexit trade deal could be struck this week, even as they put the onus on each other to make the final concessions.

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said he hoped to see an agreement “in the next few days” and called on negotiators to take the leap required. His remarks follow a similarly upbeat tone from British ministers over the weekend.

Despite the positivity, Beaune said the EU and the U.K. were still “very far” from an accord. He said two key disagreements -- over access to U.K. fishing waters and the so-called level playing field for business -- are still unresolved.

With time running short to ratify any agreement before the U.K. leaves the EU single market on Dec. 31, momentum is building for a pact this week. It would establish tariff and quota-free trade in goods and cooperation in areas such as security and transport.

Warning From Merkel

After missing several deadlines, face-to-face talks in London are still stuck on longstanding topics. The U.K. is holding out for a better deal on how it controls its fish stock, which it sees as a matter of sovereignty. An agreement on fisheries is a condition for an overarching accord.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers that some European governments were becoming “impatient” that an agreement hasn’t yet been struck, adding that “there’s not much time left.”

Describing the sort of trade-offs negotiators were currently haggling over, she said “from the British point of view, access to energy markets; from our point of view, access to British fishing waters.”

On Sunday, U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on the EU to recognize that regaining control over British waters is a question of sovereignty for the U.K. He drew a positive picture of the state of negotiations and said he believed a deal on fish “ought” to be achievable during what could be the final week of talks.

Pragmatism, Goodwill

“I think it’s important that the EU understand the point of principle,” Raab told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday show on Sky News. “If they show the pragmatism, the goodwill and the good faith that in fairness I think has surrounded the last leg of the talks, and certainly we’ve shown in our flexibility, I think there’s a deal to be done.”

By contrast, EU officials said that it’s for the U.K. to make compromises.

If negotiations fail, millions of businesses and consumers will face higher costs, with tariffs on goods as well as disruption to critical supply chains.

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Jamie Davies, told reporters that the U.K. wants to conclude negotiations as soon as possible -- but, while there has been some progress, differences remain on both fisheries and the level playing field.

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