Great Britain

Brexit news latest – France leads charge for No Deal to try to shock Britain as PM ‘absolutely committed’ to trade deal

EU SERIOUS?

FRANCE has spearheaded calls for EU's Michel Barnier to give up on the negotiations to trigger a No Deal to shock Britain.

Emmanuel Macron believes Britain will return to the table within a matter of weeks more willing to accept EU demands on fishing and red tape. 

It comes as Boris Johnson said he was "absolutely committed" to trying to secure a deal "if we can" amid warnings talks with the EU have reached a "make or break" point.

He was said to have warned that significant differences remain over fisheries, state aid rules and the governance arrangements for any agreement.

The UK and EU will need to seal an arrangement by Saturday to have time to get it through their respective parliaments by the end of the year.

Follow our Brexit live blog for all the latest news and updates…

  • CONTINUED

    Giscard presided over a modernisation of French society, allowing divorce by mutual consent, legalising abortion and lowering the voting age to 18 from 21.

    In Europe, he forged a close relationship with former West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt and together they laid the foundations for the single currency by setting up the European Monetary System.

    Giscard sought to project the image of a young, modern president who was closer to the people than his predecessors, inviting himself to dinner at ordinary folks’ homes and playing the accordion.

    But the global economic downturn of the 1970s and his perceived arrogance contributed to him losing his re-election bid to Socialist Francois Mitterrand.

  • AU REVOIR

    Former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing has died aged 94.

    Giscard, France's leader from 1974 to 1981 and a key architect of the European Union, died after being hospitalised in Tours, in the west of the country.

    "In accordance with his wishes, his funeral will take place in the strictest family intimacy," his foundation said on Twitter.

    He was admitted to hospital in September with respiratory problems - but after recovering was re-admitted in mid-November.

    The former French leader was treated in the cardiology unit, according to Europe 1 radio, which first reported his death.

    Elected president at 48, he came to power after years of Gaullist rule and sought to liberalise the economy and social attitudes.

  • BREXIT TRADE DEAL COULD COME IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS SAYS BBC

    The United Kingdom and the European Union might have made enough progress to agree a trade deal in the next few days, the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg said on Wednesday.

    "After months and months, and yes, months, of talks, several sources have told me today that the process is likely to be concluded in the next few days," she said.

    "One ambassador told me there was a hope the agreement could be finalised on Friday."

  • CONTINUED

    They were also irritated that a significant chunk of the brief interview revolved around whether or not a scotch egg counted as a "substantial meal" when pubs open again.

    Taking to Twitter, one disappointed viewer wrote: "So we wait 8 months to get #piersmorgan to eviscerate Gove and he wastes the interview on Scotch eggs & substantial meals for 16 year olds (same as on Sky) and Gove’s ambition to be PM."

    Another agreed: "F**k sake @piersmorgan @susannareid100 Just let him speak! You ask him a question and don't let him answer."

    A third said: "Pretty awful interview with Piers Morgan and Michael Gove. We can't hear you if you continually talk over each other."

  • RECAP - 'LET HIM ANSWER'

    Good Morning Britain viewers slammed Piers Morgan for "speaking over" Michael Gove as he made his first appearance on the show in eight months today.

    The presenter tore into the MP over the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit, and even Boris Johnson - forcing Gove to commit live on air that he doesn't want to run for Prime Minister himself.

    The interview got off to an awkward start as the 55-year-old star criticised Gove for boycotting the ITV breakfast show for the majority of the year.

    The politician insisted that he was just "taking good advice", but refused to directly admit that Dominic Cummings had implemented the decision.

    Gove went on to heap praise on Piers' tough interviews, with the presenter interrupting as he snapped "flattery won't get you anywhere".

    He fiercely grilled the MP on a variety of issues, but fans at home were unimpressed that he then spoke over Gove each time that he tried to answer - making much of the conversation inaudible.

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    Negotiators are holed up in a secret final haggle in London until Friday, but UK sources believe the EU could stall on giving a final deal the nod back in Brussels early next week.

    In 2018 Mr Johnson hit out: “I cannot believe that this barbaric trade is still going on — but it is. Every year this country sends thousands of live calves overseas for slaughter, and some of them are enduring nightmare journeys as far as North Africa.

    “They are jammed together in the dark. They are terrified. They slip and slide in their own excrement as the boats buck in the swell.”

    Then a backbencher, he added: “They travel for more than 100 hours in conditions of such extreme discomfort that campaigners have been protesting for decades.

    “The animals know they are going to die — and they are going to die far from home.”

  • 'LIGHT TOUCH' APPROACH TO CUSTOM CHECKS

    Customs officials will take a "light touch" approach to checking goods transported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland once the UK leaves the EU.

    Aidan Reilly, director for customs and border design at HMRC, told members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee: "We will be keeping customs checks to the minimum necessary to police the regime.

    "We will want to make the regime appropriate for the circumstances in which it's operating, which is obviously within the overall UK customs territory, and obviously HMRC is administering both sides of these transactions, so we'll be able to access data that would not ordinarily be the case for cross-border movements.

    "So we will do a lot to police it as appropriately and as light touch as possible."

  • ANIMAL AID

    Ministers will begin the abolition of cruel live animal shipments tomorrow - only made possible by Brexit.

    Under strict European Union Single Market rules that guarantee free movement of goods, no member state can ban animals being transported across borders alive.

    But with Britain finally cutting ties with Brussels in 39 days time, the controversial process will be outlawed to the delight of campaigners.

    Boris Johnson has repeatedly vowed to use the "the opportunity of Brexit" to "champion animal welfare” and will unveil plans for new legislation on Thursday.

    A No10 source said: “The PM has always been a passionate supporter of animal welfare, and as part of his plans to build back better and fairer, he is determined to make sure that the UK continues its proud tradition of protecting animals.

    “Free from EU red tape, we can now do away with the cruel practice of exporting live animals for slaughter and fattening – setting an example to other countries with our world-leading standards.” Yesterday talks between the EU and the UK over a post-Brexit trade deal continued.

    Although there is hope of a breakthrough this week, some fear the process may drag into next week because proud Brussels want the key moment “to happen on their turf”.

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    There are two others which are being reviewed at the moment, too.

    Mr Hancock told Times Radio we have been able to "speed things up" faster outside of the EU.

    Britain formally quit the EU in January, and the EMA has relocated from London to Amsterdam.

    But it remains in a post-Brexit transition period until the end of this year, and EU pharmaceutical regulations still apply for now.

    He explained: "And the reason we've been able to move this fast, and the UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically authorised vaccine, the reason is twofold.

    "Firstly, because the MRHA has done a great job of working with the company to look at that data as it's come through and do things in parallel, rather than one after the other as they normally would, that's the first reason.

    "The second reason is because, whilst until earlier this year we were in the European Medicines Agency (EMA), because of Brexit we've been able to make a decision to do this based on the UK regulator, a world-class regulator, and not go at the pace of the Europeans, who are moving a little bit more slowly.

    "We do all the same safety checks and the same processes, but we have been able to speed up how they're done because of Brexit."

  • BREAK FREE

    Brexit helped the UK become the first country in the world to approve the vaccine, Matt Hancock declared today.

    The Health Secretary said breaking free of the European Medicines Agency meant that the UK were able to make its own checks and decisions independently of the EU's agencies.

    Today it was confirmed that the Pfizer vaccine is the first to get the green light from the UK's regulators, and will be rolled out to the first people from next week.

    About 800,000 doses will be released to begin with, and millions before the end of the month.

    The jab - which is 95 per cent effective and developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech - is safe for use, health regulators say.

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    A second Brussels source added: “Fish is getting down to nitty gritty of species by species discussions. 

    "Barnier defended questions over whether the UK has moved enough on this issue. But he needs to find compromise Macron can back."  

    With talks heading into their final days, Irish PM Micheal Martin declared it's now time for the bloc to activate its contingency plans. 

    EU Parliament Brexit negotiator Christope Hansen added: "If we don't have an agreement at the end of this week, it will be No Deal."

    Negotiators will continue talks today [Thurs] before Mr Barnier briefs ambassadors on Friday when a decision will be made whether to carry on. 

    British officials rubbished claims by the Frenchman during a briefing to MEPs yesterday that they've watered down their demands on fishing. 

  • SACRE BLEU!

    France is spearheading calls for Michel Barnier to give up on the negotiations and trigger No Deal to shock No 10 into a rethink. 

    Emmanuel Macron believes Britain will return to the table within a matter of weeks more willing to accept EU demands on fishing and red tape.

    He has formed a coalition with others close to the UK, like the Netherlands and Belgium, to block any further attempts by Brussels to compromise.

    The "jittery" alliance is worried Commission boss Ursula von der Leyen is granting too many concessions to get a deal over the line. 

    During a debrief to ambassadors yesterday Mr Barnier had to defend himself against accusations he's going soft on Britain.  

    He also said the UK had "moved a lot" on the thorny issue of common standards. 

    But an EU diplomat said: "We cannot sacrifice long-term interests because of short-term timetable issues."  

  • JOHNSON 'ABSOLUTELY COMMITTED' TO REACHING POST-BREXIT TRADE DEAL 'IF WE CAN'

    The UK's "bottom line" on a post-Brexit trade deal is to "take back control", Boris Johnson said as he returned to the language of the referendum campaign with time running out for an agreement.

    The Prime Minister said he was "absolutely committed" to trying to secure a deal "if we can" amid warnings talks with the EU have reached a "make or break" point.

    The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier briefed ambassadors from the 27 member states on the latest negotiations amid little sign of progress on the key issues.

    He was said to have warned that significant differences remain over fisheries, state aid rules and the governance arrangements for any agreement.

    The current trading arrangements expire at the end of the month, and failure to reach a deal would cause significant economic disruption.

    The German MEP David McAllister, of the European parliament's Brexit co-ordination group - which also met Mr Barnier, said they had reached a "critical moment" in the negotiations.

    He said agreement needed to be reached "within very few days" if the parliament and the member states were to complete the necessary "procedures" before the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year.

    "This is the critical moment where principles need to be translated into rules and, more importantly, rules need to be guaranteed by a robust enforcement framework," he tweeted.

  • BREXIT BONUS? UK PM JOHNSON SHARES INTERNATIONAL CREDIT FOR VACCINE APPROVAL

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday said that the country's approval of Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine candidate was a result of international efforts, declining to credit Brexit for the fast pace of the regulatory process.

    German Health Minister Jens Spahn had earlier said that it was misplaced to celebrate the approval of the vaccine as some sort of victory for Brexit Britain.

    The European Medical Agency (EMA) is still assessing the shot, while Britain has approved the vaccine for emergency use, a move allowed under European law which will regulate the sector until the end of the year.

    Asked if the accelerated approval was Britain's first "big Brexit bonus", Johnson gave credit to the UK's Vaccine Taskforce but also said that all seven vaccines that Britain has ordered were the result of global efforts.

    "You've got scientists around the world coming together to make this possible. And it's a truly it's a truly international thing and very, very moving to see it," Johnson said at a news conference.

    Pressed to give a clearer answer, Johnson said he was exercising a "self-denying ordinance" of diplomacy and tact.

  • EU TELLS BREXIT NEGOTIATOR: DON'T LET DEADLINE FORCE BAD TRADE DEAL

    The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator told member states' envoys on Wednesday negotiations on a trade deal with Britain were reaching "a make-or-break moment", and they urged him not to be rushed into an unsatisfactory agreement.

    Four diplomats told Reuters after a briefing by Michel Barnier that the talks remained snagged - as they have been for months - on fishing rights in British waters, ensuring fair competition guarantees and ways to solve future disputes.

    "He said the coming days will be decisive," said a senior EU diplomat who took part in the briefing, just over four weeks before the end-of-year deadline for a deal to avoid what could be an economically damaging divorce.

    Speaking on condition of anonymity, the diplomat said Barnier did not specify a date by which an agreement must be clinched, but time will be needed for all 27 member states and the European Parliament to approve it before Dec. 31.

  • UK'S JOHNSON SAYS BRITAIN REMAINS COMMITTED TO GETTING BREXIT DEAL

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that Britain remained committed to getting a free trade deal with the European Union, but the bloc knew what their "bottom line" was.

    "We remain absolutely committed to trying to get a deal if we can," he told a media conference. "I think our friends and know what the UK bottom line is.

    "It's about making sure that the UK is able to run its own laws, its own fisheries, and so on, and that's fundamentally what it's what it's all about."

  • GOVERNMENT DEFEAT AS PEERS URGE DELAY TO DUMPING OF EU STATE AID RULES

    Peers have inflicted a defeat on the Government to register their protest at a move to ditch EU state aid rules in the absence of an agreed new post-Brexit subsidy regime for the UK.

    The House of Lords backed a Labour regret motion by 278 votes to 258, majority 20, urging a delay to allow for consultation on any proposed replacement, the agreement of the devolved administrations and a new scheme to be legislated for by Parliament.

    Ministers had argued with the ending of the transition period at the end of the year, Brussels would no longer have any jurisdiction in the UK and so "makes no sense to leave these rules on our statute book".

    The criticism in the upper chamber came in response to a government regulation, which would see the UK from January 1 follow World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules on subsidies and other international commitments agreed in free trade agreements, with the option to legislate for a home-grown system.

  • JOHNSON REMAINS 'OPTIMISTIC' OF POST-BREXIT TRADE DEAL WITH BRUSSELS

    Boris Johnson remains "optimistic" that Britain can get a post-Brexit trade deal, Downing Street has said amid warnings talks with the EU have reached a "make or break" point.

    The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier briefed ambassadors from the 27 member states on the latest negotiations amid little sign of progress on the key issues.

    He was said to have warned that significant differences remain over fisheries, state aid rules and the governance arrangements for any agreement.

    The German MEP David McAllister, of the European parliament's Brexit co-ordination group - which also met Mr Barnier, said they had reached a "critical moment" in the negotiations.

    He said agreement needed to be reached "within very few days" if the parliament and the member states were to complete the necessary "procedures" before the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year.

  • IRELAND WARNS UK NOT TO BREACH BREXIT DIVORCE DEAL AGAIN

    If the UK Government's Finance Bill deliberately breaches the Brexit withdrawal agreement it will be taken as a signal that London doesn't want a deal, Ireland's foreign minister has warned.

    A clear message to London for some time; a 2nd piece of legislation deliberately breaching the withdrawal agreement and international law, will be taken as a signal that the U.K. doesn’t want a deal,” Simon Coveney said on Twitter.

    “No deal of this complexity is concluded without at least a basic level of trust and goodwill! Over to you Britain.”

  • RISHI: WE CAN STILL GET A DEAL IF NEGOTIATORS TAKE 'CONSTRUCTIVE' APPROACH

    The UK and European Union can agree a post-Brexit trade deal if negotiators take a constructive approach, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said today.

    With only 29 days to go until the end of the transition period, trade talks remain stalled as disagreements over fishing, state aid, and dispute resolution remain.

    "With a spirit of constructive attitude and goodwill on all sides, we can get there," Mr Sunak said.

    "Hopefully we can reach a positive conclusion."

    The Chancellor said he was "very confident" about Britain's economic prospects even if there was no deal at the end of the transition period.

  • BRITAIN PRIORITISED SPEED OVER WINNING PUBLIC CONFIDENCE, SAYS EMA

    The European Medicines Agency has claimed British health regulators prioritised speed over winning people's confidence to enable the UK to be the first country in the world to authorise the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

    The EU's agency backed its own "robust" approach shortly after the jab was given the green light by the MHRA.

    Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed on Times Radio earlier today that speedy authorisation had been possible "because of Brexit".

    The EMA said the EU-27 had the option of taking the emergency authorisation route but decided against it, The Guardian reports.

    "The idea is not that we’re the first, but the idea is to have safe and effective vaccines in the pandemic and that we can create confidence, and nothing is more important than confidence with respect to vaccines," said Germany's health minister Jens Spahn.

  • THOUSANDS OF PPE STOCKPILED IN KENT AS PART OF BREXIT CONTINGENCY PLAN

    Thousands of items of personal protective equipment have been stockpiled in a depot in Kent as part of Brexit contingency planning.

    Kent county council currently holds a 12-week supply of gear, which includes face masks, gloves, aprons, hand sanitiser at its Aylesford depot.

    They are based in a large warehouse and have been acting as a "contingency" in the event of supply chain disruptions for GPs, pharmacies and other health care providers, Kent Online reports.

    A Brexit report published nine days ago revealed access to PPE had become a "new risk" because of the pandemic.

    Barbara Cooper, KCC's corporate director for environment and transport, said: "Importantly, we have a section in the report on our PPE supply chain and how we hope to protect those going forward."

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