The European Commission presented this Thursday a series of “contingency” guidelines for the Member States to prepare for a Brexit without agreement on January 1, in view of the stranded situation of the negotiations between London and Brussels. The guidelines, which had long been requested by Member States, address the areas of connections and air safety and road traffic and fisheries.
“Negotiations are still ongoing, but the end of the transition is near (…). We have to be ready,” said on Twitter the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who dined last night in Brussels with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Von der Leyen added that even if an agreement is reached in the negotiations that are expected to last at least until next Sunday, there is no guarantee that this “can come into force in time”.
The contingency plan seeks to ensure “basic reciprocal road and air connectivity between the EU and the UK, as well as allowing the possibility of reciprocal fishing access for EU and UK vessels to each other’s waters,” the Commission said. The objective is that they serve to “cover the period during which there is no agreement” and, if not reached, would end after a certain period in each specific area.
The Commission proposes a series of measures to “guarantee certain services between the UK and the EU for six months”, provided that London guarantees reciprocity. It also proposes a regulation on air safety to ensure that different safety certificates for various products can continue to be used in both territories from 2021, so as to avoid “the grounding of aircraft”.
The Community executive also wants to safeguard basic road connectivity with a proposal for a regulation on the carriage of goods and passengers by road for six months and which would apply “provided that the United Kingdom guarantees the same for EU carriers”.
The Commission is proposing rules to create a legal framework to allow European and British fishermen mutual access to their waters until 31 December 2021, or until there is a fisheries agreement with the UK, whichever comes first. Brussels stresses that to ensure the sustainability of fisheries, and given the importance for the economic viability of many communities, authorisation procedures for fishing vessels must be facilitated.
The heads of state and government of the European Union countries are meeting today and tomorrow in Brussels for a European Council at which the President of the Commission and the European Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, are expected to inform the governments of the status of the negotiations with London. After last night’s physical meeting between Von der Leyen and Johnson, British sources indicated that “there are still very big differences between both parties and it is not clear that they can be resolved”.
Brussels and London have set this Sunday as the deadline for deciding whether it is possible to sign an agreement for the future relationship between the EU and the UK after the current transition period that expires at midnight on December 31st.