Confidential notes seen by Sky News make EU officials think that a Brexit agreement is 95% acceptable – but show a level of concern about the potential impact if talks break down.
The notes came from a meeting of senior diplomats in Brussels on Friday morning, when they were briefed on the state. Bracey European Commission Secretary-General Ilze Juhanson has spoken out.
He stood for Michelle Bernier, EU chief negotiator, Who went into self-isolation on Thursday.
Ms Juhanson told the meeting that in almost all cases the legal text of a trade agreement has now become “final”, “covering almost all matters”.
However, he warned that the problem still lies in three well-established areas – fisheries, governance and competition rules, often known as level playing fields.
He said at the meeting that “on these issues, the UK has not taken significant steps,” in which case there would be “no economic partnership” without an agreement.
The notes say the UK is still pushing for annual talks on fishing coats and access to British waters.
However, the negotiators discussed an agreement on fishing that would see future reviews and possible amendments to any BRACS agreement.
Other areas of contention include the provision of healthcare to EU workers in the UK, family allowances, financial services, freight access and intellectual property.
EU Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs Helga Schmid also attended the meeting and told UK ambassadors that “there has been a lack of interest in negotiating foreign, security and defense policy” but that he was now seeing a change in approach.
However, despite these differences, Mr Bernier’s assessment of the meeting was that an agreement was possible “if there is political will and overall balance.”
Ms Juhanson told the meeting that there was a “commitment to find an effective solution” to the execution of the agreement and then timely approval was given for the completion of the transition on 31 December.
If an agreement is agreed upon, an option to expedite it would be to write only in English, but the proposal was rejected by French diplomats at the meeting as a “sacrifice of legal certainty”.
Another proposal being considered is an emergency meeting of the European Parliament on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
Senior communications in Parliament told Sky News they would be ready to do so, but stressed that they should not be in a hurry to make such an important decision.
The third proposal, and perhaps most interestingly, to grant a contract a “temporary application” means that it will take effect while awaiting approval.
Diplomats say it’s the worst option, because it’s so uncertain – but as time goes on it may be the only option.
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