Brexit: Michael Gove says MP is 'bang on' about fishing rights
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will brief them on this evening’s dinner with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. EU officials are already preparing emergency procedures for capitals to sign off on any agreement after leaders were told a draft legal text would not be ready in time for the gathering. Some EU leaders are posturing for Brussels to ramp up preparations for a no deal Brexit amid growing fears Mr Johnson will not agree to their demands for the so-called level playing field.
A senior official said: “Some members have been asking for contingency measures because some are more exposed because of their trading relationship with Britain and time is pressing.”
French officials have warned that the chances of a no-deal Brexit are rising after recent “deep disagreements” between Mrs von der Leyen and Mr Johnson.
One aide said: “We can’t exclude von der Leyen and Johnson seeking to negotiate but positions are so far away that an agreement is unlikely during the night.
“More than likely the mandate will be given back to negotiators to continue negotiations but the likelihood of no deal is growing.”
Brussels sources said leaders are expecting to ratify any Brexit agreement by email with another summit unlikely to be scheduled to discuss the British talks.
Hardline EU states have demanded “time to read” the Brexit trade deal before they can rubber-stamp the pact, the senior official said.
Angela Merkel said she was ready for the Prime Minister to demand “conditions we cannot accept” and warned colleagues to brace for a no-deal outcome.
The German Chancellor said the EU would continue to demand the ability to retaliate with trade tariffs if Britain moves away from the bloc’s rulebook.
She said: “We need to have a level playing field not only for today, but for tomorrow, and the day after that. Otherwise the result will be unfair terms of competition, which we cannot impose upon our businesses.”
She added: “There is still a chance there will be a deal.”
Ahead of tonight’s dinner, Irish premier Micheal Martin said the trade talks between the EU and UK were on the “on the precipice” of collapse.
He told the Irish parliament: “At the moment we are on the precipice of a no-deal.
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“It remains to be seen how the principals – Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President of Commission Ursula von der Leyen – can rescue the situation in their talks this evening.”
But Mr Johnson earlier signalled he would surrender to an attempt by the EU to “punish” Britain for shifting away from the bloc’s rulebook.
The Prime Minister told MPs: “Our friends in the EU are currently insisting if they pass a new law in the future which we don’t comply, they have the automatic right to punish us.”
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Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove the Government was prepared to agree to non-regression clauses as part of the talks over the so-called level-playing field.
But he also claimed that the EU wanted to keep Britain in lockstep with Brussels red tape and regulations.
“The issue of particular contention is that last week the EU negotiators didn’t simply want an arrangement whereby we pledge what we call non-regression — which is common in most trade treaties, which means you maintain the standards at the point of entry — they actually wanted an arrangement that meant if the EU adopted new laws, that the UK would have to follow them or the EU would retaliate,” he said.
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