The UK’s chances of securing a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU are beginning to fade, according to EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.
The European Commission President said during a major set piece speech that “with every day that passes, the chances of a timely agreement do start to fade”.
Von der Leyen also used her State of the Union speech to hit out at Boris Johnson’s preparations to breach the Brexit withdrawal agreement, if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 December, in the Internal Market Bill going through parliament this week.
The EU has threatened legal action over Johnson’s bill and has said it will break off trade talks if the bill is not scrapped within the month.
Mimicking the words of Margaret Thatcher, she said: “Britain does not break treaties. It would be bad for Britain, that have relations with the rest of the world, and bad for any future Treaty on trade.”
However, it comes as there has been some speculation that a breakthrough in one of the most contentious areas of trade talks – EU fishing access to UK waters – is on the cards.
Reuters reports that the UK has made a “tentative, modest” compromise on fisheries and that Downing Street was “moving cautiously towards some opening on fisheries in the technical talks”.
Chief UK negotiator David Frost will meet his EU counterpart Michel Barnier tomorrow for informal trade talks.
The largest barrier to an agreement is still agreements on future state aid regimes, with Brussels demanding the UK matches its subsidies regulations to ensure even competition for businesses on both sides of the channel.
The EU is also asking for the UK to match regulations in a number of other areas – such as environmental and labour laws – in return for zero-tariff trade with European nations.
Frost has said in the past that the UK must be a “sovereign nation” and will not be a rule-taker in its dealings with the EU.