EU countries 'impatient' over lack of Brexit progress, says Angela Merkel

James Crisp
Angela Merkel hinted at growing tensions over Brexit as France warned its fishermen could not be sidelined. - AP
Angela Merkel hinted at growing tensions over Brexit as France warned its fishermen could not be sidelined. - AP

European Union governments are getting impatient over the lack of progress in the Brexit negotiations, Angela Merkel warned on Monday.

The German chancellor said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, was getting "increasingly involved" in a sign that talks were nearing their endgame

Mrs Merkel said the negotiations in London, which remain deadlocked over the critical issues of fishing, "level playing field" guarantees and the deal's enforcement, were "difficult and challenging". 

UK and EU negotiators are in a race against time to strike a trade deal and ratify it before the end of year no deal deadline, when Britain leaves the Single Market and Customs Union. Failure will mean the UK trading with its major trading partner on less lucrative WTO terms, with tariffs and quotas, and severe disruption to trade at borders. 

"Some member states are getting a little impatient," Mrs Merkel said, 32 days before the no deal deadline. "There's not much time left."

France's Europe minister warned that there would be no trade deal without "sustainable and wide-ranging access to British waters". "Our fishermen are no less important than theirs, and they didn't have the right to vote in the referendum," Clement Beaune said during a visit to Madrid. 

Ireland's foreign minister said it was "ridiculous" that Britain was playing a "blame game" with the EU after it refused to extend the transition period beyond December 31. "The truth of Brexit is now being exposed in terms of the challenges of it," Simon Coveney said. 

On Monday, the European Commission resisted demands by France, the Netherlands and Belgium to publish emergency no deal plans for fear of upsetting the delicately poised trade negotiations. 

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We have been clear that we won't change our negotiating position." 

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said a no-deal Brexit could create "new opportunities" for British farmers because tariffs on EU imports would mean they would sell more produce in the UK. Mr Eustice said the next week to 10 days would be "crucial" in getting a deal done.

The National Farmers Union has warned that tariffs on the 60 percent of UK food and drink that is exported to the EU would cripple them.  

A new multi million-pound centre will use experts and cutting edge software to try and cope with border chaos after Britain leaves the transition period. The Border Operations Centre will monitor the flow of people and goods into the UK around the clock and in real time. 

Border traffic is expected to be disrupted, whether or not there is a trade deal with Brussels. Officials expect "short term" disruption but hope the centre will minimise it.

Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said the centre would "help us tackle challenges quickly and decisively, and give us increased information which will make us safer and more secure".

The UK hopes to have the "world's most effective border" by 2025, but concerns have been raised about the current system's ability to cope with Brexit.

The EU has said it will bring in full customs checks on UK products from January 1. Britain will introduce a phased approach, which will not bring in full checks until July, which the Government blamed on coronavirus.