With less than a month until the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, crucial talks are ongoing in a bid to secure a trade deal. But neither side has been able to agree on issues including state aid and fishing quotas.
Brexit negotiators on both sides have been trying to reach an agreement for months on how widespread the level playing field should be once the UK is no longer part of the single market.
The level playing field is a set of common rules and standards preventing businesses in one country gaining a competitive advantage over those operating in other countries.
But the latest rounds of talks “did not go well” after Brussels shifted its position to appease France over rules on state aid subsidies and standards, pushing the UK into a position they cannot accept.
During negotiations, France has been the most vocal in its concerns about the final concessions, with the likes of Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark also raising worries.
Macron backs Boris into position he cannot accept
Brexit transition period set to end on December 31
An EU source claimed talks had become “extremely sluggish” confirming tensions over enforcing rules and regulations were rising.
A French government official said: “We’re not pushing for a no deal…. But we’re pushing for reaching an ambitious agreement.
“We push the negotiator to see the last days or even the last hours that we have [to negotiate an agreement].”
The diplomat added that a veto from EU countries could not be ruled out if Mr Barnier crossed any red lines.
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EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
They said: “If the mandate is not adhered to, they have every right to do so.”
France has also been furiously opposed to Britain's plans to take back control of fishing waters.
French officials have been behind a push for EU negotiator Michel Barnier to walk away from the negotiations at the end of the week unless Boris Johnson makes significant concessions.
EU countries have urged Mr Barnier to share part of the texts informally to reassure capitals about what concessions are being made.
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European fishing dependence on UK waters
Another official told Politico how EU capitals are growing increasingly nervous due to how much is at stake and how much the Commission is holding its cards close to its chest.
They said: “This not some small, faraway country.
“It’s one of the most important free-trade deals the EU will close for a long time to come.
“If we give in too much on level playing field now, it will hurt us for decades to come.
French President Emmanuel Macron
“So it’s a good thing that the Commission is aware just how much depends on its judgment call [on] which compromise is good enough.”
Mr Barnier arrived in London last weekend for urgent talks to secure a Brexit trade agreement before the end of the transition period.
While the latest talks “did not go well”, a breakthrough is still possible in the next few days, according to a senior UK Government source.
They said: “At the eleventh hour, the EU is bringing new elements into the negotiation.
“A breakthrough is still possible in the next few days but that prospect is receding.”
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