British and EU negotiators remain locked in talks in Brussels as they desperately attempt to compromise on a trade deal that has been nine months in the making. Several deadlines have been missed in that time, with both sides at loggerheads over crucial red lines, predominantly fisheries and Brussels’ level playing field measures aimed at preventing unfair competition on standards and state subsidies. Both of these have continued to be stumbling blocks and have threatened a total collapse of post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and EU.
But reports have emerged on Wednesday that an agreement could finally be close, suggesting compromises may have been made from one or both sides in either to get a deal over the line before the transition period ends on December 31.
Any trade deal would first have to be voted on by MPs in the House of Commons, which would likely have to take place in a matter of days.
Now the Tory European Research Group (ERG) of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs have insisted it will examine ant trade agreemenr in detail if a deal is indeed reached between the UK and EU on Wednesday evening.
The body has vowed it would reconvene its so-called “star chamber” of “highly-experienced lawyers” to scrutinise all aspects of any trade deal.
The ERG said in a statement on Wednesday: “Assuming a deal between UK and the EU is officially confirmed tonight, the European Research Group will tomorrow reconvene the panel of legal experts, chaired by Sir William Cash MP, to examine the details of the deal and legal text.
“The team of highly-experienced lawyers, previously known as the ‘star chamber’, was first assembled in 2019 to examine the legal aspects of Theresa May’s original Withdrawal Agreement.
“Given that the new agreement is also highly complex, the star chamber will scrutinise it in detail, to ensure that its provisions genuinely protect the sovereignty of the United Kingdom after we exit the transition period at the end of this year.
“The star chamber, which will include some new members to replace those now in Government, will undertake its examination as expeditiously as possible before providing its conclusions on the merits of the deal – which we will aim to make public before Parliament reconvenes.”
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The French official, who declined to be named, told Reuters: “The British have made huge concessions in the negotiations in the past 48 hours.”
The insider also warned that on fishing in particular, the latest position from the UK was “far” from the three-year access to British waters and 80 percent reduction in quotas offered by London a week ago.
Mr Johnson has repeatedly said no-deal is the most likely outcome ftrom trade talks with the EU, with the UK then falling back on terms set by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) 0 meaning tariffs and quotas on trade with the EU.
French Europe minister Clement Beaune warned the EU would not be pressured into agreed a deal just because the transition period deadline is due to expire in just over a week.
He claimed a no-deal situation would be “catastrophic” for the UK and suggested the EU should hold out.
Mr Beaune said: “We should not put ourselves, Europeans, under time pressure to finish by this hour or that day. Otherwise we would put ourselves in a situation to make bad concessions.”