EU readies contingency code to face Brexit talks failure

The European Commission has proposed a back-up plan which aims to ensure, among others, the basic reciprocal air and road connectivity between the European Union (EU) and the UK if the two sides fail to agree to a post-Brexit trade deal.

“Negotiations are still ongoing. However, given that the end of the transition is very near, there is no guarantee that, if and when an agreement is found, it can enter into force on time,” Xinhua news agency quoted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as saying in a statement on Thursday.

While she stressed that the Commission would continue to do its utmost to reach a mutually-beneficial agreement with the UK, there was now significant uncertainty whether a deal will be in place with just three weeks to go.

The set of contingency measures were designed to prepare for all eventualities, including not having a deal in place with the UK on January 1, 2021.

The main purpose of the plan is to ensure basic reciprocal air and road connectivity between the two sides, as well as allowing for the possibility of reciprocal fishing access by EU and UK vessels to each other’s waters.

It proposes that basic air transport will continue for six months provided the UK agrees to reciprocate.

The same applies to access for road haulage.

An interim fisheries regulation is put forward to allow continued reciprocal access by EU and UK vessels to each other’s waters until the end of 2021, or until a fisheries agreement with the country has been concluded.

“Readiness and preparedness are now more important than ever. Disruption will happen with or without an agreement between the EU and the UK on their future relationship,” von der Leyen was quoted as further saying in the statement.

“This is the natural consequence of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the Union and to no longer participate in the EU Single Market and Customs Union,” she added.

Prime minister Boris Johnson meets with Ursula von Der Leyen at the European Commission in Brussels to continue with Brexit talks. Picture by Andrew Parsons No 10 Downing Street

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson travelled to Brussels on Wednesday for an emergency meeting with von der Leyen to seek a post-Brexit trade deal.

But the meeting ended without a breakthrough as “very large gaps remain” between the two sides, according to Downing Street.

The two leaders have agreed that their negotiating teams will continue discussions over the coming days and a firm decision about the future of the talks should be taken by Sunday.

The trade negotiations are at a crucial stage as time is running out for both sides to secure a deal before the Brexit transition period expires on December 31.

Failure to reach a free trade agreement means bilateral trade will fall back on World Trade Organization rules in 2021.

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