Brexit showdown: EU and UK’s ‘precious little time’ to secure deal as MEP issues warning

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Christophe Hansen, a member of the European Parliament’s Brexit committee, claimed both sides face a race against the clock to conclude any agreement ahead of the looming ratification deadline. Sources have hinted a deal could emerge by mid-November, but the Luxembourger insisted MEPs would need to see the “substance” of the future relationship pact as early as next week in order to complete the formalities. Speaking to, Mr Hansen conceded talks are already set to overrun the original deadline set to give the EU Parliament enough time to rubber-stamp any agreement.

He said: “We would have wanted this effort to have already started earlier on because we have precious little time.

“We’ve lost precious time and it’s now the very last phase of the negotiations, if we don’t hear much that’s not very helpful – we’re really waiting for the final substance, and the microphone on that is silent.”

Before any Brexit deal can enter into force it must be scrutinised by two parliamentary committees in Brussels and then given the green light at a plenary session in December.

Mr Hansen revealed the EU Parliament had already agreed to a “fast-tracked procedure” to give negotiators extra time to find agreements on the key sticking points of access to Britain’s coastal waters and controls over state subsidies for businesses.

He said: “We need six weeks to two months to do our work properly. We are under time pressure, this will already break a fast-tracked procedure and is the fastest we can do. 

“We need concrete results in the first week of November.”

Both sides have been locked in intensive wrangling over the Brexit deal after the EU agreed to finally begin work on a joint legal text and put pen to paper on the agreement after months of stalling.

The talks will shift to Brussels on Thursday for one final push before a potential political intervention from Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Mr Hansen insisted the EU and UK can overcome their differences over common standards, especially for state aid, in order to clinch a deal.

He said: “The problem is not the level-playing field or concerns over state aid, this is a question of trust.

“When we look at the UK, it doesn’t have a very strong track record of giving too much state aid, so the danger is not as imminent as one might say.

“We know what the UK state aid regime will be, it’s finding the necessary supervision for this and the possibility to address concerns.”

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Fisheries remains one of the toughest issues to solve in the coming days, with the subject still shown as a “red light” on the EU’s traffic light system for progress.

A number of European governments, including France and Belgium, are still holding out for the same level of access to Britain’s coastal waters after Brexit.

But Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit chief, believes possible compromises have emerged in order to secure concessions from Britain.

The Frenchman is working on a trade-off between the UK’s access to the EU’s energy markets and the bloc’s access to British fishing grounds, according to Mr Hansen.

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Mr Hansen said: “Those are compromises we could make, the UK or EU has strengths and weaknesses, that’s why we want to discuss everything together.”

In a final warning, the politician insisted the EU Parliament could still veto any trade agreement at the last minute if Downing Street refuses to remove controversial clauses from its Internal Market Bill.

The legislation, which gives ministers the power to tear up parts of last year’s withdrawal agreement, infuriated Brussels.

Mr Hansen said: “The withdrawal agreement must be respected to the very last letter. It’s not a threat, just a reality that we would not consent to a deal at any cost.”

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