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EU chief says there is ‘movement’ in Brexit talks

By AFP
14 December 2020   |   2:13 pm
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen expressed satisfaction on Monday over talks with Britain to agree a post-Brexit trade pact, saying there was progress as negotiators entered the "last mile".

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a press statement following a phone call meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister, at the European Commission in Brussels on December 13, 2020. – A negotiations phase of eleven months that started on January 31, 2020 following the UK’s exit from the EU ends on December 31, 2020. (Photo by Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP)

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen expressed satisfaction on Monday over talks with Britain to agree on a post-Brexit trade pact, saying there was progress as negotiators entered the “last mile”.

“First of all there is movement. That is good… We are talking about a new beginning with old friends,” she told a conference organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“We are on the very last mile to go. But it is an essential one. We want a level playing field, not only at the start but also over time,” she added.

“This is the architecture we are building. We are fine about the architecture itself, but the details in it — do they really fit? These are crucial points because it is a matter of fairness, fair competition and we want to ensure that.”

Her comments came as EU and British officials were set to return to the negotiating table on Monday after von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to abandon a supposed make-or-break weekend deadline.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire had in a radio interview earlier warned that in the event of a no-deal in the trade talks “the losers will be the British. We don’t lose much.”

He said that according to government estimates Brexit would only snip 0.1 percent off GDP in France in 2021 and French trade to Britain “was not much as far France’s total global trade volume is concerned”.

He criticised the concept of Brexit, borrowing a phrase from the last novel by British spy novelist John Le Carre, whose death was announced Sunday.

“Brexit, to quote a very simple phrase of John Le Carre — to whom I take this opportunity to pay tribute — is ‘lunacy’,” Le Maire told France Info radio.

“I regret that my British friends have to pay the price because they are paying the price for populism, they are paying the price for lies,” he said.