Trade talks set to drag amid impasse over fisheries

LONDON, ENGLAND – Prime Minister Boris JohnsonWPA Pool | Getty Images News | Getty ImagesLONDON — Boris Johnson will soon decide what to do with stalled Brexit trade talks, with negotiators failing to reach an agreement ahead of the U.K. prime minister’s self-imposed deadline of Oct. 15.There has been “some progress” over competition rules, according to an EU diplomat who didn’t want to be named due to the sensitivity of the talks, but both sides claim they have not yet bridged all their differences.Johnson told EU representatives Wednesday that he was disappointed there had not been more progress over the past two weeks, a spokesperson said. During a phone call with the European Commission and Council presidents, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, Johnson said he would wait for the outcome of a European summit on Thursday “before setting out the U.K.’s next steps.”The 27 heads of state for the EU are gathering in Brussels on Thursday afternoon for their regular October meeting. They are likely to ask for Brexit negotiations to continue.”We really need to see movement from the side of the U.K.,” the EU diplomat said on Wednesday during a briefing.”It is clear we are not there yet,” the same diplomat said.The main stumbling block at this stage has been over fisheries, a subject that carries quite a lot of political weight for the U.K. government, but also for some EU countries, including France. There are also differences over competition rules and the future governance of their agreement.The EU source suggested that a compromise over competition rules could be feasible if both sides were to agree to a resolute dispute settlement system, which in the future could rule on potential trade issues in a matter of “days,” not months.The U.K.’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, has told Johnson not walk away from the talks, adding that a deal over security and fisheries is possible in the next two weeks, the Times reported on Thursday, citing “a source close to the talks.” CNBC wasn’t able to independently verify the comments.At the same time, the U.K.’s junior business minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News on Thursday that the government cannot wait until the very last minute to inform businesses to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.”I can’t go to businesses at the 11th hour on the 31st of December … We have to make a decision much sooner,” he said, according to Reuters.The U.K. stopped being a member of the European Union in January but agreed to keep following all EU rules until the end of 2020 so both sides could have time to put together new trade arrangements.This means they have until the end of the year to conclude trade talks and get approval for their deal in the U.K. and European parliaments.

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