16 Dec 2020: 'Narrow path' for agreement on Brexit deal exists: EU chief
After weeks of intensive talks on a post-Brexit deal, a "narrow path" for an agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union is now in view, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday.
While this is good news, von der Leyen said outstanding issues pertaining to the level playing field and the fisheries remain.
Here are more details.
Quote: 'There is a path to an agreement now'
Addressing the European Parliament, von der Leyen said, "As things stand I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not, but I can tell you that there is a path to an agreement now."
The EU chief went on to add, "The path may be very narrow, but it is there, and it is, therefore, our responsibility to continue trying."
Deal: Next few days going to be decisive, says EU chief
Officials from the UK and the EU are continuing talks in Brussels to strike a deal before December 31, when the UK stops following EU trading rules.
The EU chief said the "next few days are going to be decisive," with negotiators working "day and night" to reach an agreement.
Negotiations over how a deal would be enforced are "largely being resolved," she said.
Challenges: Discussion 'still very difficult' on fisheries
"On fisheries, the discussion is still very difficult," von der Leyen said. The issue remains stuck as both sides negotiate over access to each others' waters post-Brexit.
"We don't question the UK's sovereignty on its own waters, but we ask for predictability and stability for our fishermen and fisherwomen," she said, adding that it "sometimes feels we'll not be able to resolve this question."
Future: UK, EU 'still very far apart' in key areas
The EU chief said that both sides have agreed to a "strong mechanism of non-regression" on social, and environmental standards, even as differences remained over how to "future-proof" rules in this area.
Continuing talks on fisheries was the "only responsible" course of action, she said.
A UK official said on Wednesday, "We've made some progress, but we are still very far apart in key areas."
Recent news: Last week, von der Leyen held talks with Boris Johnson
Last week, after a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, von der Leyen had said that both sides remained "far apart." The two sides had then set a Sunday deadline to strike a deal.
If the talks fail, the EU chief has also proposed a set of measures that it would implement to ensure basic UK-EU air and road connectivity and fishing access.