It is understood that 95% of the EU-UK futures agreement has been finalized, but there are major gaps on major risks, including fisheries, and how disputes can be resolved.
Despite the progress, member states are now considering whether to extend an agreement that could be reached in the coming days from January 1, due to time constraints.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, was briefed this morning because a senior member of his team tested positive for the corona virus.
Although member states have been told that 95% of the text is complete, there are still big gaps in fishing, level playing fields, governance and how disputes can be resolved.
There is also growing concern that this process will not get enough time.
The transition period ends on December 31 at 11pm, and any transaction must comply with time-consuming legal procedures, including approval by the European Parliament.
On the one hand, some member states say urgent no-deal contingency plans need to be published now. On the other hand, officials are looking for ways to solve the time problem.
One idea is that any contract can be applied provisionally from January 1, with legal and confirmation procedures occurring later, perhaps by the end of January.
The UK must consent.
Another issue is whether it is considered to touch only specific EU capabilities such as contract, trade and agriculture, or whether it includes member capabilities that are generally reserved for aviation.
Then it is called a “mixed” agreement. Traditionally, mixed free trade transactions have to be approved by 27 member state parliaments and some local agreements.
This means that the agreement will take two years to take effect.
However, the gaps are still wide, and member states believe that a non-contractual outcome is still a very likely scenario.