With days until the UK's self-imposed deadline of October 15 for Brexit talks to reach a conclusion, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was in Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier met in Berlin on Monday to discuss the ongoing trade negotiations between the UK and the bloc. Time is running out for the UK and the EU to reach an agreement.
Barnier also met with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who said that a no-deal Brexit would be "irresponsible," particularly given the economic and health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
"With today's health and economic challenges, people on both sides of the channel have enough to shoulder, so it would be totally irresponsible to burden them in this position with the additional problems through a no-deal," Maas said.
Maas stressed that the EU was still open to constructive discussions with the UK. "Our door is still open for a close and ambitious partnership with Britain," he said.
The foreign minister also said on Twitter that while the coronavirus had made negotiations more difficult "in every respect," they had made reaching a deal more crucial, too.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the European Council meeting on October 15 is the final chance to ratify a deal between the EU and the UK, making it an effective deadline for trade negotiations. The EU said that negotiations should be wrapped up by October 31 at the latest.
The UK left the EU's political institutions on January 31, but very little about the way it trades with the bloc has changed as yet. That's because the UK is currently in a so-called transition period, still enjoying most benefits of Single Market and Customs Union membership, which will end on December 31. If no deal is ratified by then, the UK could end the transition period without any trade agreement with the bloc.
The meeting came shortly after global bank Goldman Sachs published a report on Monday morning predicting that a deal would be reached by early November, although there remained the risk of a breakdown in negotiations.
"Our core view remains that a 'thin' zero-tariff/zero-quota trade agreement will likely be struck by early November, and subsequently ratified by the end of December," Goldman analysts said in a report sent to clients.
"The risk of a breakdown in negotiations cannot be ruled out," the report added. "We continue to think the perceived probability of a 'no deal' will persist beyond the next European Council meeting in mid-October."
Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke in a video conference on Saturday to discuss the "state of play" of Brexit negotiations, saying afterwards that "significant gaps remained."
The EU launched legal action against the UK last week over British plans to break international law and go back on part of a pre-agreed treaty.
ed/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)