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Merkel says no-deal Brexit would send a bad global message

November 30, 2020

The German Chancellor believes the UK and the EU "share common values" but recognizes time is running out on a potential trade agreement. The two sides remain apart on a number of issues, particularly fishing rights.

Angela Merkel in Brussels
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Belga/T. Roge

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that it would send a bad signal to the world if a Brexit trade deal could not be reached, as an EU negotiating team stayed in London for additional talks.

With just one month remaining for the European Union and the UK to come to an agreement, Merkel told a virtual gathering of parliamentarians from across the continent: "Britain and the EU share common values. If we failed to reach a deal, it would not send a good signal."

Britain and the EU are still divided over issues such as state aid, competition rules and fishing.

The UK's transitional period of informal membership is currently scheduled to end on December 31 with time increasingly short. Several self-imposed deadlines to reach an accord have come and gone.

Patience running out

Merkel said some EU member states were losing patience. "We hope that the negotiations will have a good end," she said, but warned that there would be few compromises on offer from the 27-member bloc.

"We don't need a deal at any price and we have made this clear," she said, albeit adding: "A deal is in everyone's interest."

Echoing the German Chancellor's sense of urgency, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said: "We are running out of time here."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's stance remains that though a deal would be preferable, the UK would still flourish without one.

Not taking the bait

The two sides remain at loggerheads over fisheries in particular, and Johnson's spokesman said there had been some progress recently but "there still remains divergence on issues [such as] fisheries and the level playing field."

"We want to try and reach a free trade agreement as soon as possible but we've been clear we won't change our negotiating position," the spokesman said.

French fishermen, meanwhile, must not be sidelined in the trade talks, France's European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said on Monday, cautioning that London and Brussels were "still very far from agreement" on the trade issues. 

"Our fishermen are no less important than theirs and they didn't have the right to vote in the referendum," Beaune told reporters during a visit to Madrid, in reference to the UK's vote of 2016.

Beaune was reacting to the weekend's talks between Britain and the EU in London at which British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said fishing rights were still an "outstanding major bone of contention."

French fishers fear post-Brexit future

Prospect of WTO terms increasing

Last ditch talks are intensifying with the clock ticking on the possibility of an agreement being reached before the end of the year.

Should the two parties fail to come to terms by then, trade between the pair would switch to World Trade Organization conditions, increasing the chances of severe economic consequences with tariffs imposed on goods, and customs checks required at borders.

A Brexit deal would not only help improve continued trade terms, it could also help safeguard UK-Irish relations and the Good Friday Agreement, an accord that largely ended around three decades of political and sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland.

jsi/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)