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EU leaders maintain they had no reason to believe the negotiations would not continue. The European Commission President Leyen tweeted:
“Took stock of negotiations with Flag of the United Kingdom in a call with Boris Johnson, together with EUCO President. The EU is working on a deal, but not at any price. Conditions must be right, on fisheries, level-playing field, and governance. Still a lot of work ahead of us”.
“The EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price. As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations.”
The German chancellor Merkel said the EU should be flexible with the U.K. while ensuring fair competition: “If we want to have an agreement, then both sides need to make a move toward each other. We need to react quickly. We can’t mutually rule out that each of us has different rules to a certain extent. We intend to focus on the negotiations and these negotiations will continue in the next few days. In some places things have moved well, in other places, there is still a lot of work to be done. We have asked the United Kingdom to remain open to compromise so that an agreement can be reached. This of course means that we, too, will need to make compromises.”
The Dutch PM Rutte said Johnson’s call for intensive talks and compromise coupled with the apparent hard stance may be a part of negotiation:
“I look with a positive sense to Boris Johnson’s reaction now that he is implicitly stating that he also now wants the talks to continue. The positive of the last two days is the EU has, by implication, signaled we’re ready to compromise, which has always been our position. We will not get 100% of what we want, that’s impossible in a negotiation, you always have to find a compromise, you always have to find ways within the mandate Michel Barnier has received from the European council … He is a skilled negotiator, he will be able to explore where within the mandate there is room for compromise and that room is there.”
On Friday morning, the U.K. Foreign Secretary Raab said: I am also disappointed by the lack of flexibility that seems to have come out of the European council. But a deal is still possible. We’ve been told that it must be the U.K. that makes all of the compromises in the days ahead, that can’t be right in a negotiation, so we’re surprised by that, but the prime minister will be saying more on this later today. Having said that, we are close--- With goodwill on both sides, we can get there.
As per reports, following the issuing of the official summit communique, the EU leaders had held a two-hour discussion on the most contentious issues that stand in the way of agreement: how to hold both sides to the deal, EU access to British fishing waters and the so-called level playing field demands, sought by Brussels to ensure neither side can undercut standards or over-subsidies parts of the economy to give its companies a competitive advantage.
The Irish Taoiseach, Martin, said Barnier had provided a presentation on the thorniest issues remaining: “Fisheries loomed large in the presentation and the subsequent debate, and of course a dispute mechanism to have a proper process in terms of how to resolve any subsequent dispute if an agreement was to be arrived at. I think (Barnier) senses that he will continue negotiating until the very end to get a deal, but there are difficulties. I think that it would be fair to say that there are challenges, and particularly on those last three items that I referenced – in terms of the level playing field, in terms of fisheries, in terms of governance, that there hasn’t been sufficient movement on those fronts to at this stage suggest that there could be an agreement, so there’s significant work to be done yet.”
The European Council President Michel tweeted:
“We discussed Brexit with Boris Johnson and Vonder Leyen on the eve of the EUCO we pressed again for progress to be made at the negotiation table---Level Playing Field; Fisheries; Governance
Today we will discuss our future relationship with the UK. We want an agreement, but we also want to protect the level playing field. It's a question of fairness and the integrity of the single market.
All EU27 Leaders stand behind their negotiators. We all want to reach an agreement, but not at any price. The withdrawal agreement has to be fully implemented. Full stop.
We are concerned about the lack of progress. And we call on the UK to make the necessary moves.”
And on Sunday (18th Oct), Gove, the British Cabinet Secretary said Britain is still ready to negotiate with the EU: “I think the EU effectively ended the current round of talks last week. It was the case we were making progress but then the EU retreated from that. We hope that the EU will change their position; we're certainly not saying if they do change their position that we can't talk to them."
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