Oh dear, Brussels! EU’s ‘biggest danger’ exposed as WTO rules to devastate supply chains

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Director of policy at the North East England Chamber of Commerce, Jonathan Walker, explained Brussels is interested in a Brexit trade deal to ensure a problem-free flow of goods from January 2021. The European Union and Britain remain at odds in last-ditch trade talks over fishing rights, guarantees of fair competition and ways to solve future disputes, even though they are very close to agreement on other issues, EU diplomats said on Friday. Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Walker said: “I think there is clearly an interest here on the EU side ensuring that the flow of good and services is as seamless as possible.

“Obviously we’re a significant exporter to the EU – but we do import.

“I think the biggest danger under a WTO outcome is in the disruption to those fast-moving supply chains.

“If you look at the osmosis sector in the North East, you have goods crossing borders about three or four times before they are finished.

“Any disruption or delay to that will block both sides.”

A senior member of the bloc’s executive European Commission, which is negotiating a new trade pact with the UK on behalf of the EU’s 27 states, briefed diplomats behind closed doors on Friday about the latest in the Brexit talks.

A senior EU diplomat said after the briefing: “We are both close and far away.

“It seems that we are very close to agreement on most issues but differences on the three contentious issues persist.”

The chief Brexit negotiators suspended direct talks on Thursday after a member of the EU team tested positive for COVID-19, but officials continued working remotely to clinch a trade deal that would come into force in just six weeks.

A second EU diplomat said of the three main sticking points: “They still need their time. Some things on the level playing field have moved, albeit very, very slowly.

“Fisheries are not really moving anywhere right now.”

UK sources who work on state aid said Britain had offered to set up a regulator for corporate subsidies, something the EU has long asked for.

But the sources said that without knowing what London’s state aid regime would look like in the future, it was hard to work out rules to guide such a regulator.

An EU diplomat confirmed that Britain had made a proposal but said it fell short of the bloc’s demand for a body independent from the government and with a clear mandate.


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An EU official, who is directly involved in the talks with Britain, said negotiators mostly focused on such elements of corporate fair play as well as divvying up fishing quotas in recent days: “Both of these are still very stuck.”

Britain’s transition out of the EU following Brexit ends on December 31 and quotas and tariffs would hit bilateral trade from 2021, unless the estranged allies overcome their differences and seal a new partnership agreement that would also regulate ties from energy to transport to security.

Any agreement struck by the negotiators must still be approved by all the EU countries, as well as the European Parliament, to come into effect.

With most deadlines missed and negotiators making a last-ditch effort to seal a deal, France, Belgium and the Netherlands have asked the Commission to update emergency plans in case talks fall and there is an abrupt split in trading ties.

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