EU, UK chiefs discuss COVID, Brexit – EU sources

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke on disagreements over fisheries that are barring a new trade deal, as well as the latest on coronavirus, in a call on Monday, sources said. 

EU sources added that the bloc was now willing to accept a reduction in the value of its catch in UK waters of up to 25% over a period of time from 2021. 

The length of that, as well as agreeing how the bloc could retaliate should Britain cut its industry off afterwards were still the sticking points in trade talks just nine days before Britain leaves the bloc’s single market and customs union, meaning current trading rules will no longer apply.

European and other countries have also suspended most of travel from Britain since the weekend to try to curb a new faster spreading strain of the coronavirus. 

Earlier on Tuesday, the European Union is giving a “final push” in a bid to strike a Brexit trade deal with Britain, its chief negotiator said on Tuesday, with the two sides inching towards agreement on fishing though the politically sensitive matter remains unresolved.

An EU diplomat said agreement was getting closer. “It seems we are crossing the line,” the diplomat said. While EU officials and diplomats said cutting the value of the bloc’s fishing catch in British waters by around 30% from 2021 would be too high, the EU was willing to go as far as 25%.

A senior British minister on Tuesday ruled out prolonging Britain’s transition out of the EU beyond Dec. 31.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams)

Photo – European Union’s negotiator Michel Barnier (R) talks with with France’s ambassador to European Union Philippe Leglise-Costa before a meeting of the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union (Coreper) in Brussels, Belgium, 22 December 2020. EPA-EFE/JOHN THYS / POOL

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