As post-Brexit talks continue, here are the main sticking points

Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen have agreed to let talks on a post-Brexit trade deal continue until Sunday as “very large gaps” remain between the two sides.

The deadlock comes down to persistent sticking points between London and Brussels over the long drawn-out exit from the EU by the UK.

– Fisheries:

Mr Johnson has insisted that no British prime minister could accept EU demands to continue to maximise access to UK waters for its fishing fleets after the Brexit transition period expires on December 31.

The UK argues the UK is now an independent coastal state and should be able to prioritise its own boats.


However, most fish caught by UK fishermen are sold in Europe and Britain needs to maintain access to EU markets.

Mr Johnson told the Commons ahead of his dinner with Ms von der Leyen on Wednesday: “They (the EU) are saying that the UK should be the only country in the world not to have sovereign control over its fishing waters.

“I don’t believe that those are terms that any prime minister of this country should accept.”

– The level playing field:

The so-called “level playing field” rules are intended to ensure businesses on one side do not gain an unfair advantage over those on the other side.

In exchange for continuing access to the single market, the EU is seeking a high degree of alignment by the UK with its standards on workers rights, the environment and particularly state aid for businesses.

The British deny they want to undercut EU measures, but say the point of leaving is for the UK to be able to set its own standards.

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.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 9, 2020

Mr Johnson said: “Our friends in the EU are currently insisting that if they pass a new law in the future with which we in this country do not comply or don’t follow suit, then they want the automatic right to punish us and to retaliate.”

– Governance:

The two sides are still at odds over the mechanisms for enforcing any agreement and resolving disputes.

The British have been adamant that the UK is an independent sovereign state and cannot accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

– Where does this leave the negotiations?

Dialogue will continue until Sunday when Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen agreed that a “firm decision” should be taken about the future of the talks.

Downing Street sources said that “very large gaps” remain between the two sides and it is unclear they can be bridged, as London continues to insist it could live with a no deal outcome.