The coming days in the Brexit negotiations will be “decisive” as to whether Britain and the EU are able to agree a free trade deal, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.
But the former German defense minister warned that talks could still fail.
“The next days are going to be decisive. The European Union is well prepared for a no-deal scenario,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told MEPs.
“With very little time ahead of us, we will do all in our power to reach an agreement. We are ready to be creative”, she said.
“I cannot tell you today if in the end there will be a deal. There has been genuine progress on important questions.”
Read more: ‘Better progress, more movement’ in last-gasp Brexit talks, EU’s von der Leyen says
Her comments come some ten days after British prime minister Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, Dominic Cummings, quit Downing Street, prompting speculation that a deal was close.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
Teams are currently holding meetings virtually after a member of EU negotiator Michel Barnier’s staff tested positive for coronavirus last week.
The Frenchman is expected to travel to London latter this week once he has finished his period of self-isolation in line with Belgian health rules.
EU ambassadors say the text of a future trade pact is “95% done”, but that both sides are still trying to bridge their differences over key issues that have hampered the talks for months.
They include rules to prevent unfair competition, how to police a deal if and when it is agreed, and the thorny issue of fishing rights for EU trawlers in British waters.
Britain officially left the EU on January 31st of this year. But a transition phase, in which it follows all EU rules, ends on December 31st.
A so-called No Deal Brexit would mean that both the UK and the EU would have to trade from January 1st based on World Trade Organization rules, which would see huge tariffs slapped on goods flowing in both directions.
Read more: Brexit: What’s the ‘no deal’ fallout for the UK and EU?
Michael Gove, a senior UK minister, is hopeful of reaching a deal
Michael Gove, a senior British government minister, said on Tuesday that he hopes the UK will “secure a good deal with the European Union.”
But he added: “The European Union needs to move as well, and it needs to acknowledge that we voted to take back control and that’s the most important thing.”
jf/aw (AP, dpa, Reuters)