EU lays out contingency measures in the event of no-deal Brexit

10 December 2020, 10:37 | Updated: 10 December 2020, 10:50

The EU and UK are still yet to reach a deal
The EU and UK are still yet to reach a deal. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The European Commission has set out contingency measures aimed at coping with the disruption if no trade deal can be agreed with the UK.

With trade negotiations still deadlocked just three weeks before the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, Brussels has said there is no guarantee it will come into force in time.

The measures would ensure basic reciprocal air and road connectivity between the EU and the UK - and allow for the possibility of reciprocal fishing access.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: "Negotiations are still ongoing.

"However, given that the end of the transition is very near, there is no guarantee that if and when an agreement is found, it can enter into force on time.

"Our responsibility is to be prepared for all eventualities, including not having a deal in place with the UK on January 1."

Read more: UK 'not going to give up on basic points of democratic principle' over Brexit, Dominic Raab tells LBC

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The contingency measures set out by the European Commission include a proposal on "basic air connectivity" for six months, provided the UK does the same.

A proposal on aviation safety would allow various safety certificates to continue to apply in the EU, avoiding the grounding of aircraft.

Another measure would cover freight and passenger travel on the roads for six months, as long as the UK reciprocated.

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In a more contentious move, Brussels proposed a 12-month period for continued reciprocal access to fishing waters.

A commission statement said: "Disruption will happen with or without an agreement between the EU and the UK on their future relationship.

"This is the natural consequence of the United Kingdom's decision to leave the Union and to no longer participate in the EU single market and customs union."

The UK is due to stop following EU trading rules on 31 December 2020.

On Thursday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has told LBC the UK is "not going to give up on the basic points of democratic principle" in negotiating a Brexit deal.

He told Nick Ferrari it was "not clear if large gaps can be bridged" as the UK struggles to secure a deal with the EU, but said the Government "need to see a final decision by Sunday on future of negotiations."

But Mr Raab said he would do "whatever it takes" to help secure a deal, even if it meant interrupting his Christmas celebrations.

Discussing the PM's meeting in Brussels the night before, Mr Raab told LBC: "They had a pretty frank discussion and I think it's clear large gaps remain and it's not clear if they can be bridged.

"We'll keep, as the Prime Minister has demonstrated by going over to Brussels, keep leaving no stone unturned.

"There'll be further discussions this week, we'll try and see if we can bridge the gaps, as significant as they are, but I think we need to see a final decision by Sunday on the future of the negotiations.

"From our point of view, as I say, we'll keep striving for a deal but we're not going to give up on the basic points of democratic principle when we leave the transition period, whether in relation to laws or fisheries."

On Wednesday night, Boris Johnson's last-ditch Brexit trade deal dinner talks in Brussels ended with an announcement that a "firm decision" will be reached by Sunday but that "very large gaps remain".

The PM left the dinner, at which fish featured heavily on the menu, with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen after around three hours.

A No10 source said tonight that "very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged".

"The PM and Ms von der Leyen agreed to further discussions over the next few days between their negotiating teams," they said.

"The PM does not want to leave any route to a possible deal untested. The PM and Ms von der Leyen agreed that by Sunday a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks."

After the dinner, Ms von der Leyen told reporters: "We had a lively & interesting discussion on the state of play on outstanding issues. We understand each other’s positions. They remain far apart.

"The teams should immediately reconvene to try to resolve these issues. We will come to a decision by the end of the weekend."