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07.12.2020 Europe

Brexit talks 'on knife edge' as UK MPs vote on breaking withdrawal treaty

By RFI
AP - Virginia Mayo
LISTEN DEC 7, 2020
AP - Virginia Mayo

Ireland's leader Micheal Martin has described Brexit negotiations as being "on a knife edge" as talks to agree a trade deal with the EU resume in Brussels. Later on Monday, MPs in London will again debate a bill which could see the UK break the withdrawal treaty agreed in January, if they do not agree on trade terms. 

After a break on Saturday and communication between European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, negotiations resumed on Sunday.

Late last night there were reports of progress on fishing, one of three key problem areas. But London has since dismissed any talk of a breakthrough.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was to brief EU ambassadors on Monday morning on the state of play. After a day of further negotiations, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson are scheduled to speak on the phone in the evening.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin told TV station RTE that he hoped "common sense prevails" to allow a trade deal to be struck.

The outstanding problems are fishing, competition rules and how to arbitrate on disagreements and enforce rules agreed on access to the EU's Single Market.

London could break terms of previous treaty

Meanwhile in London, UK MPs are once again to debate the Internal Market Bill, which puts Westminster in the uncomfortable scenario of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU 27, while discussing breaking the terms of another.

If they back the bill on Monday night, it will give the government authorisation to break international law by reneging on aspects of the Brexit withdrawal treaty signed with the EU in January.

That treaty, which laid out the terms for Britain's departure from the EU, included vital provisions to safeguard the so-called Good Friday peace agreement concerning Northern Ireland. 

 

Time running out


Britain's plans to renege on the Brexit withdrawal treaty were drawn up only to be used in the event of no-deal on trade, so if the UK and EU manage to reach a trade agreement this week, London will not renege.

If deal is struck, it will have to be turned into legal text and translated into all EU languages, then ratified by the European Parliament.

The current rules governing Britain's relationship with Europe expire on 31 December.

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