BRUSSELS has today demanded a series of draconian emergency No Deal plans – including for us to follow EU rules in order for flights to continue and access to our fishing waters for a YEAR.
In drastic No Deal documents revealed this morning, the EU proposed four separate 'mini deals' to be agreed if we can't seal a full-on Brexit deal by the end of the month.
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Ursula Von Der Leyen today set out the block's last-minute ideas which propose playing hardball with transport, demanded continued fishing rights, but Britain must sign up to a "level playing field" of their rules first.
They demanded that "even after the end of the transition period, the United Kingdom continues to apply sufficiently high and comparable standards" in a range of transport areas.
A statement said: "The European Commission has today put forward a set of targeted contingency measures ensuring basic reciprocal air and road connectivity between the EU and the UK, as well as allowing for the possibility of reciprocal fishing access by EU and UK access to each other's waters."
They propose a year for a fisheries deal and six months for continued travel – or the deals would cease to exist if an overall Brexit trade agreement is reached.
The EU legal text calls them a "package of measures" but EU sources stressed they were separate agreements.
One said: "The aim is to stop a fishing war."
Both sides would need to sign up to each individual section of the agreement for the segment to come into force.
Fish has been one of the main sticking points in the ongoing Brexit agreements – as the EU want to ensure France has as much as access as possible to British waters once we leave the bloc.
But Boris has repeatedly promised to take back control of our waters as one of the highlights Brexit can bring the nation.
No10 shot down the fishing proposal this lunchtime, saying: "Once we leave the transition period we will take back control of our fishing waters.
"We would never accept arrangements and access to EU fishing waters which are incompatible with an independent coastal state."
MPs reacted with fury to the EU's proposals.
David Jones, spokesman for European Research Group, told The Telegraph: “It is effectively blackmail. It’s piratical behaviour.
“This just shows how desperate they are doesn’t it. It’s clear they are desperate to do a deal.
“I’m pretty sure the response the Prime Minister will give is that this country does not buckle in the face of intimidation, threats and blackmail. That’s not how we do business.”
The news comes ahead of an EU summit later today – where EU bosses will update leaders on the state of the fractious negotiations.
Leaders will now discuss Brexit this evening, as the very first item on the agenda over dinner tonight.
Mr Johnson and Ms Von Der Leyen decided to push both teams to continue to work up until Sunday before making a final call about whether a deal can be reached or not.
David Frost and Michel Barnier will get their teams back to work on trying to bridge the huge gaps which still remain between both sides – after a symbolic three-course meal of scallops and turbot in Brussles last night.
LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL?
In a sign of hope today Ms Von Der Leyen said that Brussels was willing to give access to the single market – as long as it was fair for the EU.
She said this morning as leaders gathered for a Brussels summit: "We are willing to grant access to the single market to our British friends. It’s the biggest largest single market in the world.
"But the conditions have to be fair. They have to be fair for our workers and for our companies, and this fine balance of fairness has not been achieved so far."
Britain has so far refused to sign up to stick to EU rules after we leave – but the EU says we can't have access to the market unless we do.
She implied negotiators were working on a way to secure the "fine balance of fairness".
It came as:
- Dominic Raab warned this morning that the EU "will need to move significantly" in order to seal an agreement, but failed to rule out talks continuing into next week
- Britain signed a post-Brexit agreement with Vietnam and Singapore last night
- A German minister said it was critical to find an agreement in the next few days
- The Foreign Secretary dismissed warnings about 5% higher food prices if there was a No Deal Brexit
DINNER DATE WITH DESTINY
It's unclear what has changed after the three-hour dinner between Boris and Ursula Von Der Leyen last night, where the pair had a "frank" and "lively" discussion.
Earlier this week both teams concluded they couldn't go on any further without shifting positions at the very top.
The talks are stuck over issues at the heart of the Brexit debate – Britain wants to break free of EU rules and take back full control of our laws, borders and money.
But Brussels insists if we want market access, we must align with them.
Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt said there were "significant obstacles" in Brexit talks.
She told MPs: "It is clear that we remain far apart on the so-called level playing field, fisheries and governance.
"However, they agreed that talks should resume in Brussels today to see if the gaps can be bridged.
Mr Raab said today that the EU had to move considerably for an agreement to be reached – and that the PM would "leave no stone unturned" to try and seal a pact.
He accused the EU of disrespecting democracy by failing to understand we were regaining our sovereignty.
He said: "Particularly from the UK side, we look at the differences on fairly key points of principle – fairly narrow in scope, we are talking about fisheries, level playing field commitments, the EU's attempt to lock us in to their rules – we need to see substantial movement."
He insisted that the UK would not "sacrifice" its ability to control fishing waters and laws on standards to achieve a trade deal with the EU.
"No other country would accept that and nor would the EU in terms of its dealings with third countries," he added.
Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven said he was more "gloomy" about the EU-UK trade talks following Wednesday night's meeting between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen.
"It's a difficult situation," he said as he arrived at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
Mr Lofven said: "I'm a bit more gloomy today. As far as I can hear there is no progress made in the recent days.
But Irish premier Micheal Martin said that a post-Brexit trade agreement is "within reach".
A Senior No10 source said last night: "The PM and VDL had a frank discussion about the significant obstacles which remain in the negotiations.
"Very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged.
"The PM and VDL agreed to further discussions over the next few days between their negotiating teams.
"The PM does not want to leave any route to a possible deal untested. The PM and VDL agreed that by Sunday a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks."
The PM and Ms Von Der Leyen spoke for three hours over dinner last night, before he left the European Commission at around 11pm.
He flew back to Britain late last night and will be back at work in Downing Street this morning.
He was snapped out this morning returning to No10.
What are the sticking points in Brexit talks?
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: Brussels wants a shared set of rules and standards to ensure businesses in the UK do not have an unfair advantage over their competitors. The UK has said it won't lower its standards, but wants to be able to set its own rules.
GOVERNANCE: Who decides what happens if the terms of the deal are breached? The EU wants a European body to decide the terms, but the UK aren't keen on this and want an independent arbitrator to have the final say.
FISHING: The EU wants continued access to Britain's fishing waters after we leave. It's claimed Britain would be happy with a three year deal to phase out access, but the EU are pushing for ten. One of the key referendum claims was that Britain would be able to take back control of our borders – including fish – when we leave the EU.
As talks drag on, it's unclear whether there is a firm deadline for discussions to end.
Britain leaves the transition period at the end of the day on December 31, and Downing Street has stressed there will be no extensions to it, and no further discussions in 2021.
Raab said it was "unlikely" that talks on a post-Brexit trade deal will be extended beyond Sunday.
The UK and European Union have agreed that a decision on the future of the negotiations will be taken by the end of the weekend.
The Foreign Secretary told the BBC that while he could not rule out a further extension in the talks process it was important to have "finality".
He said: "I think it's unlikely but I can't categorically exclude it.
"It depends on the progress made between now and then."
Stephan Mayer, a state secretary at Germany's Interior Ministry, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he was "deeply convinced" that the next few hours should find an agreement.
Asked if German leader Angela Merkel was serious about being prepared to go down the route of not having a trade deal, he said: "Certainly, that's an option.
"If the negotiations fail, that there is no-deal, but I'm deeply convinced that a no-deal in the end would be the worst solution for both sides. For UK, as well as for the European Union.
"I'm deeply convinced as well that it should be in the interest of both sides to find a solution and to find an agreement, within the next few hours or few days, at least until Sunday."
Business and union leaders have voiced their fears about the growing prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a trade deal.
Unite urged the Government to end uncertainty over a Brexit deal and allow industry to understand future trading operations.
Allie Renison, senior policy adviser at the Institute of Directors, said: "Business leaders will be concerned at the apparent lack of progress.
"Even at this late stage, a deal is crucial to reduce disruption and uncertainty. Both sides must strain every sinew to find a way forward."
Make UK, Scottish Engineering and Manufacturing Northern Ireland said in a joint statement: "A no-deal would be catastrophic for Britain's manufacturers, a sector which came to the nation's aid when the Covid crisis struck."
BY HARRY COLE, Political Editor
WHEN is a deadline not a deadline? When it is Brexit talks.
With another "make or break" cut off point kippered, Boris Johnson and his EU counterpart Ursula von de Leyen last night set yet another date of this Sunday to clinch a trade deal.
Brussels said "the end of the weekend" was the finale, but the Brits said a decision about more talking will be taken then – so expect that deadline to slip too.
But given both sides had said last night's dinner was needed because the negotiators had run out of road without someone changing their position, there is only one question Brexit-watcher's lips this morning…
Who blinked first?
And so MPs could be forced to sit between Christmas and the New Year to enshrine a Brexit deal into law, The Sun has learnt.
Government officials have drawn up contingency timetables in case they need to pass the necessary legislation at breakneck speed over the Christmas week.
They even checked when Parliament last sat on Christmas Day as part of their contingency planning – and found it would be the first time since 1656.
Any Brexit trade deal agreed with the EU must be enshrined in law before the end of the transition period on December 31 by passing through both Houses of Parliament.
If there is no new trading agreement in place by January 1 then the UK and the EU resort to trading on baseline World Trade Organisation rules.
Senior government sources said they are hoping to wrap everything up by Christmas Eve.
But while they would avoid forcing MPs to sit on Christmas Day, they said the Government would be willing to drag MPs back to Parliament on Monday December 28 despite it being a Bank Holiday.
MPs could even ratify the deal on New Year’s Eve – a day before any new trade deal would take effect.
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