British and European sources said that the negotiations between the British government and the European Union in order to reach a trade agreement are close to the settlement stage, with the continuing disagreement over some sticking points between them.
The BBC quoted sources in the European negotiation team led by Michel Barnier, the chief European negotiator, as saying that there has been less progress in the past few days than what has been made with regard to sticking points that remain intractable.
The European sources added that “the moment of truth is approaching”, while sources in the British negotiating team led by Mr. David Frost, the chief British negotiator, said that “there are still large gaps between the two parties.”
The two sides doubted the possibility of reaching a draft agreement in the coming days, as the European side had hoped, so that the leaders of the twenty-seven countries of the Union could ratify the agreement at their meeting next Thursday.
The negotiation team is scheduled to meet in a new round in Brussels next Monday, which is a watershed week in the negotiations process that began between the two parties since last March.
Months of talks between the two sides have reached a dead end due to differences over major issues, as the European Union seeks to persuade Britain to follow its rules related to government support, which Britain rejects on the grounds that this violates the principle of its sovereignty over its laws … while Britain seeks to ensure that British fish enter the market. Without fees, the European Union, in return, wants to ensure the entry of European fishing vessels into British territorial waters.
Britain announced its formal exit from the European Union last January, but it agreed to a transitional period until the end of this year during which it continues to follow the Union’s rules so that further negotiations can be held on the future relationship and trade arrangements between the two sides in the post-Brexit phase.