The UK and the EU may be on the verge of signing an agreement

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson (L) will be received by European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen (R) on December 9, 2020 at the EU headquarters in Brussels.

Oliver Hoslett | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON – A few days before the end of the year, Britain and the European Union may be on the verge of signing a long-awaited Brexit trade agreement.

On Tuesday, EU President Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier said he was making a “final push” to conclude a Brexit trade deal with Britain before December 31.

“We are at a critical juncture,” he told reporters after summarizing the 27 ambassadors. “We give it the ultimate push. In 10 days, the UK … will leave the single market.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen have entered into a series of “hotline” talks, the FT reported on Wednesday, in an attempt to reach an agreement before the end of the day.

However, there are still disagreements over fishing rights and many other issues.

The European Union wants to retain access to British waters for its fishing fleet, while the UK wants to largely restrict these fishing rights. In the absence of any agreement, the UK has already threatened to stop EU access to British water abruptly and, conversely, to stop gunboats to protect British waters.

There are concerns that some fishing navies may ignore any restrictions, which could lead to conflicts. These are unheard of; Among the controversies surrounding fishing have been the so-called “scallop wars” between the British and French fishing navies in recent years.

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UK Housing Secretary Robert Genrick told Sky News on Wednesday there were “serious areas of disagreement” on both “fisheries” and the creation of a “level playground” for businesses.

“I’m still reasonably confident, but I have no news to report to you this morning,” he said. “” There is not enough progress at the moment. This is not a deal that the Prime Minister thinks we can make a deal with. “

However, there have been positive reports about the Brexit talks over the past 24 hours, with ITV’s political editor Robert Beston saying a deal could be reached on Tuesday.

The sterling rose 0.5% to 34 1.34 against the dollar as traders challenged the signing agreement.

If Britain and the EU fail to reach an agreement by December 31, both sides may impose border checks and import taxes on each other’s goods, as trade will become subject to WTO rules. This can lead to price changes in supermarkets and stores.

Britain officially withdrew from the EU on January 31, 2020, however, after Brexit the leaders were given 11 months to agree on the rules governing life for the UK and Europe.

– Holly Elliott of CNBC contributed to this article.

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