European Union diplomats warned Britain on Monday that it was time for a Brexit agreement and that it might already be too late to ratify it, as negotiators in Brussels launched a final attempt to avoid a tumultuous outcome in late December.
Nearly five years since the start of the Brexit referendum, Britain and the EU have still not figured out how nearly $ 1 trillion in trade a year will work when Britain leaves a status quo transitional arrangement on 31 December.
Britain, which left the EU in January, called on the EU to show “more realism” if there was to be more progress in the coming days.
Ireland, the EU nation most exposed to Brexit, said there were only a few days, or possibly weeks left, to find a way to unlock trade talks, while a senior EU official said it might no longer be time to enter into an agreed trade agreement.
“It will be very late and may already be too late,” said the EU official, while talks between the bloc’s negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart, David Frost, resumed in Brussels.
“They have not really reached where they had hoped to be,” said a second source, an EU diplomat. Britain said that some progress had been made and that the two sides had joint draft treaty texts, although significant elements had not yet been agreed.
A “no deal” final for the Brexit crisis would shock financial markets and disrupt sensitive supply chains across Europe and beyond – just as the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic is worsening.
Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said it could take another two weeks before an agreement is reached and takes talks close to the tough deadline of 31 December.
“We are more likely to reach an agreement than not, simply because the consequences of not reaching an agreement are as significant and as costly for Britain and Ireland as they are, and for some other EU countries,” Coveney told an online conference. .
So far, there has been little movement in the most disputed areas – so-called “equal conditions” fair competition rules and fishing.
In London, Prime Minister Boris Johnson isolated himself in an apartment in his Downing Street apartment after contacting a British lawmaker who later tested positive for COVID-19.
His most powerful adviser, Arch-Brexit Dominic Cummings, was ousted on Friday after a battle between rival factions in the government.
“We may not succeed,” Frost said on Sunday. “We are working to reach an agreement, but the only thing that is possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade and our waters.”