President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has announced a set of contingency measures the sides, the EU and Britain, have worked out to apply post-Brexit, while acknowleding the talks over trade and governance arrangements following the UK's divorce from the bloc are ongoing. However, there is no guarantee, she said, that even if or when they lead to a certain accord, it will take force "on time".
The EU Commission chief announced they had worked out measures that would apply should Britain and the European Union fail to agree upon a trade deal by the end of the year, as scheduled.
Negotiations are still ongoing but the end of the transition is near. There is no guarantee that if & when an agreement is found it can enter into force on time. We have to be prepared including for not having a deal in place on 1 January. Today we present contingency measures ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/FQ4Urn9YUC— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 10, 2020
The measures would allow smooth air and road travel for the next few months, among other things, von der Leyen said.
"Our responsibility is to be prepared for all eventualities", she tweeted in her statement.
In the first place, the Commission proposes a one-year legal framework for contested fisheries, until a clear-cut agreement with the UK on fishing quotas comes along. Yet another tabled regulation covers "basic connectivity with regard to both road freight, and road passenger transport for 6 months", provided the UK makes the same assurances with regard to EU haulers.
Ms von der Leyen went on to detail the third regulation, asserting it would ensure that various safety certificates for products will continue to apply on EU aircraft without disruption, so that there will be no need to ground them.
Following the comments, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney weighed in stressing that the absence of a breakthrough last night is a worrisome signal, highlighting the divisions between the parties to the long sought-after agreement are still "very wide".
As time is almost up for a deal to arrive - before the transition period expires on 31 December - there has been widespread speculation that the sides will round off this year's heated negotiations without a proper agreement, meaning WTO rules would apply to the UK starting from January.
PM Lands in Public's Crosshairs
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is meanwhile facing mounting criticism over his perceived failure to unlock the current stalemate in talks with the European Union during a three-hour dinner with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Wednesday.
"One year after Boris Johnson promised us an oven-ready deal he has completely failed. The failure to deliver the deal he promised is his and his alone", Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner tweeted.
The Scottish National Party's Parliament leader, Ian Blackford, also took to Twitter to criticise Johnson and said that a no-deal option "would be a massive failure" of his diplomacy.
"The UK govt continues to spin about an Australian style deal. For the absence of doubt that means no deal. It means world trade organisation rules, it means damaging tariffs devastating manufacturing, farming and fishing", Blackford went on in a follow-up tweet, outlining the scenario.
The UK Govt continues to spin about an Australian style deal. For the absence of doubt that means no deal. It means world trade organisation rules, it means damaging tariffs devastating manufacturing, farming and fishing. It would mean come January food & medicine shortages.— Ian Blackford (@Ianblackford_MP) December 10, 2020
Deadline Looms Ahead
A new accord will have to be approved by the EU's 27 member states and European parliaments, including Britain's by 31 December.
The issues still hampering talks include fishing quotas in the waters that the UK deem as sovereign or British, as well as governance and market play conditions that would apply to businesses in Britain and beyond. Another sticking point is how the rules of the deal will be enforced in the years to come and what reciprocal measures will be taken if one of the sides breaks them.