EU countries 'impatient' over lack of Brexit progress, says Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel hinted at growing tensions over Brexit as France warned its fishermen could not be sidelined. - AP
Angela Merkel hinted at growing tensions over Brexit as France warned its fishermen could not be sidelined. – AP

European Union governments are getting impatient over the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations, Angela Merkel said on Monday. 

The German Chancellor said that Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission was getting “increasingly involved” in the trade talks in a sign they were entering the endgame. 

She said the negotiations, which remain deadlocked over the critical issues of fishing, level playing field guarantees and the deal’s enforcement were “difficult and challenging”. 

“Some member states are getting a little impatient,” Mrs Merkel said in an online event, “there’s not much time left.”

She added that her fellow EU leaders wanted a trade deal but “not at any price”. 

In Madrid, France’s Europe minister warned that Paris would not allow French fishermen to be sacrificed to get the deal done.  He said that it was unacceptable that Britain “should lay down the law” in the negotiations. 

“Our fishermen are no less important than theirs and they didn’t have the right to vote in the referendum,” Clement Beaune told reporters on a visit to the Spanish capital. 

“There can be no agreement unless there is one that gives sustainable and wide-ranging access to British waters,” he said. 

Ireland’s foreign minister told the British government to stop the “blame game” over the deadlocked negotiations because they rejected the chance to have more time for the talks. 

“The British Government was offered a much longer transition period, and they turned it down, yet they’re now blaming the EU for it – that’s just ridiculous,” Mr Coveney told BBC Radio Ulster.

“But I think a deal is possible because the consequences of no deal are so costly and so disruptive, particularly for the UK and for Northern Ireland, but for the Republic of Ireland as well.”

“The truth of Brexit is now being exposed in terms of the challenges of it,” he added.  

UK and EU negotiators are in a race against time to strike a trade deal and ratify it before the end of year no deal deadline. 

Failure will mean the UK trading with its major trading partner on less lucrative WTO terms, with tariffs and quotas, and disruption to trade at borders. 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We want to try and reach a free-trade agreement as soon as possible but we have been clear that we won’t change our negotiating position.” 

“This is the crucial week we need to get a breakthrough.I really do think we are now in the sort of, final week, or 10 days,” George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, told Sky News.

In Brussels, the European Commission resisted demands by EU governments to publish emergency no deal plans for fear of upsetting the delicately poised trade negotiations 

Emmanuel Macron, with the support of other EU leaders such as the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte, called for the plans to be launched at a November 19 summit. 

The demand was repeated on Friday last week by EU ambassadors during a meeting with Michel Barnier. 

The commission said yesterday it was “fully focused” on the trade negotiations and that businesses and citizens had all the information they needed to prepare for a no trade deal exit.  

Germany holds the rotating presidency of the EU, meaning it chairs intergovernmental talks in Brussels. 

“People are calling more and more energetically for contingency measures. I’d like to wait as long as possible before we introduce contingency measures,” Mrs Merkel said 

She added, “I think we should really put all of our efforts into the last step and the last phase of the negotiations in hopes of reaching a negotiated agreement.”

The emergency plans would be unilateral, temporary measures to mitigate the worst impacts of no deal in EU interests such as aviation and freight.