BRUSSELS – Problems increased Monday for the attempt to secure a trade deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom before a Brexit transition period ends on New Year's Day, with the EU legislature insisting the drawn-out negotiations left lawmakers without enough time to approve a deal.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, displayed insouciance over whether an agreement is reached or not, saying Britain would “prosper mightily" even if the talks collapsed overnight. “Not that we don't want a deal," Johnson hastened to add during an afternoon news conference.
British and EU negotiators were still deadlocked over fishing rights with only 10 days to go before a chaotic, costly economic break between both sides is to become official. Barring a late breakthrough, it would impose tariffs on trade between the sides, on top of the customs and other administrative red tape imposed by Britain's decision to leave the 27-nation bloc.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake throughout the economies of both sides if no deal is found, but Britain is still insisting its sovereignty trumps concessions granting EU vessels rights in U.K. waters and the EU is refusing to open its lucrative single market to the U.K. unless it commits to play by EU rules.
“It’s vital that everybody understands that the U.K. has got to be able to control its own laws completely, and also that we are going to be able to control our own fisheries,” Johnson said.
EU legislators were mulling their next moves now that that both sides had ignored a Sunday deadline the European Parliament had set for agreement terms to be worked out in order to have enough time to assess them before Jan. 1.
“Under a normal procedure, this is no longer possible," the EU parliament's chief Brexit official, German lawmaker David McAllister, told The Associated Press. “We showed our utmost flexibility, but the Sunday evening was the last possible date."
Now, the EU will have to show legal creativity to stave off a no-deal cliff edge.