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    Brexit Talks Head for Crisis as Johnson Decides Whether to Walk

    Abstract:The negotiations between Britain and the European Union over their future relationship are lurching toward a crisis after European Union leaders told Boris Johnson he must make concessions only hours before the prime minister is due to decide whether to walk away.

      The negotiations between Britain and the European Union over their future relationship are lurching toward a crisis after European Union leaders told Boris Johnson he must make concessions only hours before the prime minister is due to decide whether to walk away.

      David Frost

      Photographer: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

      The spat raises the risk that Johnson will decide to pursue a no-deal Brexit. Without an accord, millions of businesses and consumers will face additional costs and disruption when Britain leaves the single market on Dec. 31.

      “If conditions aren‘t met, it’s possible we wont have an agreement,” French President Emmanuel Macron said as he arrived at the summit in Brussels. “We are ready for that.”

      But there is still time -- just -- for the two sides to clinch a deal.

      The U.K. had been calling on the EU to agree to round-the-clock negotiations to push through an agreement within the next two weeks. But for Johnson to be persuaded to stay at the table, negotiators had wanted to see positive signs from the bloc, including a signal it was willing to intensify negotiations -- something they pointedly refused to do.

      “Surprised EU is no longer committed to working ”intensively“ to reach a future partnership,” Frost said in a Tweet. “Also surprised by suggestion that to get an agreement all future moves must come from U.K. Its an unusual approach to conducting a negotiation.”

      While the summits final communique removed the word “intensification” that had appeared in earlier drafts, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier did use the term to characterize the discussions he plans over the coming weeks. That may still not be enough for Johnson.

      Talks “Arent Over”

      {18}

      “I can‘t say as we stand here that we’ll necessarily get a deal -- we have prospects of a deal,” Barnier told reporters after meeting with EU leaders, adding that, as far as hes concerned, talks will continue in London next week and Brussels the week after. “We shall remain available until the last possible day -- the negotiations arent over.”

      {18}

      Worth listening back to #EUCO press conference. @MichelBarnier said:

      “We remain determined to reach a fair deal. We will do everything we can - but not at any price. Our team will continue intensive discussions over the coming weeks. We remain calm, united, determined.” https://t.co/FVPOeJ9IgE

      — Daniel Ferrie (@DanielFerrie) October 15, 2020

      While the U.K. thinks it has gone as far as it can, and wants the EU to compromise, leaders from the bloc insisted that the onus is on the British government. It wants the U.K. to make concessions on state aid, limiting the subsidies government can hand out to businesses, before it contemplates its own compromises on fishing.

      {27}

      European officials brushed off Frost‘s complaints and insisted they won’t persuade the bloc to shift its stance, and several voiced irritation, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. Two said they judged the comments were aimed at Frost‘s domestic audience and two others said they might serve to harden the EU’s position.

      {27}

      Read More: Fish Are Chips in Post-Brexit Trade Bargaining: QuickTake

      The leaders said the EU and U.K. should “continue negotiations in the coming weeks” and called on the U.K. to “make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible,” according to the summit communique.

      Johnson will assess the mood of the EU based on signals from leaders and the content of their discussion, according to a person familiar with the U.K. position who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Prior to the summit, Frost was expected to advise Johnson not to abandon talks, the person said.

    Timetable to Departure
    • Oct. 15-16: EU leaders meet in Brussels. Originally, they wanted an agreement to have been nailed down by now.
    • End of Oct.-Early Nov.: The last likely moment a deal can be struck and still be implemented in time for the year-end.
    • Nov. 16: EU leaders meet in Berlin. If negotiators from the two sides manage to strike an accord, expect their political bosses to approve the agreement at this meeting.
    • Nov. 23-26: European Parliament meets. It will have to ratify any deal agreed by EU leaders.
    • Dec. 10-11: Another EU summit. If a deal hasn‘t been signed, expect preparations for Britain’s messy exit from the single market to figure prominently on the agenda.
    • Dec. 31: End of Brexit Transition period. The final, immovable deadline. If the two sides havent signed a trade deal, Britain will default to trading on World Trade Organization terms.

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