'Essential second': Britain and the EU could also be on the verge of signing a Brexit commerce deal
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) will be welcomed by President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen (R), in the Berlaymont building at the EU headquarters in Brussels on December 9, 2020.
OLIVIER HOSLET | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – Just days before the end of the year, the UK and the European Union may be on the verge of signing a long-awaited post-Brexit trade deal.
On Tuesday, EU chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, said the bloc was making a "final push" to secure a Brexit trade deal with the UK before December 31st.
"We are really at a crucial moment," Barnier told reporters on the way to 27 ambassadors. "We're giving it one final boost. In 10 days the UK will … leave the single market."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have started a series of "hotline" negotiations, the FT reported on Wednesday, with a view to reaching an agreement before the end of the day.
However, there are still disagreements over fishing rights and some other issues.
The EU wants its fishing fleets to have access to UK waters, while the UK wants to restrict these fishing rights to a large extent. In a no-deal scenario, EU access to UK waters could end abruptly and vice versa, and the UK has already threatened to use gunboats to protect UK waters.
There are concerns that some fishing fleets may ignore restrictions, which could lead to possible collisions. These are not unknown; In recent years there have been physical clashes between British and French fishing fleets known as the "Scallop Wars".
UK Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News on Wednesday that "serious disagreements" persisted over both fishing and creating a level playing field for businesses.
"I'm still reasonably optimistic, but there is no news for you this morning," he said. "There is not enough progress at the moment." It is not a deal that the prime minister can sign us to. "
However, there have been positive reports on the Brexit talks over the past 24 hours, with ITV's political editor Robert Peston claiming on Tuesday that an agreement could be reached on Wednesday.
The pound sterling rose 0.5% against the dollar to $ 1.34 as traders placed bets on a signed deal.
If the UK and EU fail to reach an agreement by December 31st, both sides could impose border controls and import taxes on each other's goods as trade will return to World Trade Organization terms. This could lead to price changes in supermarkets and shops.
Great Britain officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020. However, the heads of state and government had eleven months to agree on the rules that will govern life for Britain and Europe after Brexit.
– CNBC's Holly Ellyatt contributed to this article.