Brexit deal on BRINK: EU fears UK will leave with no deal ahead of last-ditch crunch talks
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Key economic forecasts are being drawn up on the basis the wrangling over a free-trade agreement will end in failure for the bloc. The renewed sense of urgency comes as Germany accused Boris Johnson of “playing games” ahead of a crunch period for the UK-EU talks. And France was urging the bloc to use splits within the Conservative party to encourage the Prime Minister to drop plans to overrule key areas in his Withdrawal treaty with the bloc.
European Commission officials were said to have already made changes to their “Autumn Economic Forecast” to include the impact of Britain quitting its EU transition without an agreement at the end of the year.
Economists had previously been working on the assumption a UK-EU trade and security pact would have already been concluded when the document is released in November.
But doubts have been cast over the negotiations since the publication of Downing Street’s Internal Market Bill, which will hand ministers the powers to overwrite EU rules in Northern Ireland as part of the post-Brexit fix to avoid a hard border.
German Europe minister Michael Roth claimed the bloc was “really, really disappointed” with the progress made in the trade talks.
He added: “The so-called Internal Market Bill extremely worries us because it violates the guarding principles of the Withdrawal Agreement.
“Please dear friends in London, stop the games – time is running out. What we really need is a fair basis for further negotiations and we are ready for that.”
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said: “People have been very taken aback by the deliberate strategy coming from the British government. This is very damaging to Britain’s reputation outside the bubble of Brexit discussions.
“Undoubtedly, the tactics of the British government have made an already very complex negotiation even more difficult. Of course, if the legislation continues, there will be a legal response from the EU, I expect.”
Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic insisted Brussels would not reopen negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement.
He said: “The EU believes in calm, constructive cooperation through the channels created through the Withdrawal Agreement.
“We will not be renegotiating, but we are dedicated to its full and timely implementation – nothing more, nothing less.”
The top eurocrat will meet Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove in Brussels next week to continue discussions on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
European capitals have urged Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, to continue working on the free-trade agreement with his British counterpart Lord Frost.
EU lawyers are separately drawing up plans to haul Mr Johnson in front of the European Court of Justice unless he amends his Brexit Bill.
France has urged the bloc to target splits amongst Tory MPs by issuing a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum to potential parliamentary rebels, forcing them to choose between a trade deal with the bloc or the No 10’s legislation.
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Europe minister Clement Beaune, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, said: “We will see the parliamentary and political context in the UK in the coming weeks.
“It is clear that we cannot put in place an agreement on the future relationship if the Withdrawal Agreement has been called into question. There, Europe has some leverage.
“If at the end of the year, if we have an agreement on the future relation, we are ready to ratify it at the European and national levels, but if the Withdrawal Agreement has been called into question… well, obviously, we cannot go forward.
“It is simply unacceptable that agreements that sign today or tomorrow will not be applied or respected. I hope this is just an ‘episode’ and the UK will stick to what it has signed up to.”
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