The EU is keeping up preparations for a chaotic ‘no deal’ outcome to Brexit trade talks with Britain, a spokeswoman said Thursday, as the two sides gear up for stormy negotiations.
The atmosphere leading into the talks, which start on Monday and are supposed to conclude in agreement by December 31, is rapidly souring, with London on Thursday rejecting key EU demands and threatening to abandon the process if it is not making progress by June.
The European Commission, which is leading the talks for the 27 EU member states, said it was acting to protect the bloc in the event no deal is reached — an outcome likely to be hugely disruptive on both sides of the Channel.
‘The commission maintains its capacity to prepare for no deal following the result of those negotiations, as it of course continues to prepare for a useful and for positive result of those negotiations,’ commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant said.
‘I would not elaborate on exact structures, on whether we are talking about a formal unit or about teams that are working on no deal from various places... but the commission will keep the eye on the ball for any result of the negotiations which will start on Monday.’
London’s negotiating mandate, published on Thursday, rejects the EU call for Britain to mirror the bloc’s standards to continue freely trading its goods with the bloc’s huge single market.
It also states that if the ‘broad outline’ of a deal has not been agreed in time for a high-level meeting planned for June, London could simply abandon the negotiations to concentrate on its own ‘no deal’ planning.
Spinant said the mid-year meeting was ‘a very fair timeline’ to take stock of whether a deal was possible.
But on the matter of financial services — a key concern for Britain with its important banking sector — she refused to commit the EU to completing so-called equivalence assessments by June.
These assessments will be needed for City of London to carry on doing business in the EU after December 31 and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is keen to see them dealt with swiftly.
‘From the beginning the equivalence regime is not part of the negotiations with the UK because the decision on the equivalence regime is something for the EU basically to assess and to decide upon,’ Spinant said.
The EU’s mandate for chief negotiator Michel Barnier stresses that equivalence decisions are a matter for the bloc to decide unilaterally.
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