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Brexit Bulletin: Britain vs. France

Brexit Bulletin

What's happening? Negotiators are racing to save a trade deal between the U.K. and European Union.

A major dispute upended post-Brexit trade talks just hours before the two teams were expecting to announce an accord.

Negotiators from both sides will spend the weekend in London trying to reach a breakthrough. They are still at loggerheads over three key issues that had appeared to be close to being settled – access to British fishing waters, the competitive level playing field for business, and how any overall agreement is enforced.

Michel Barnier in London on Dec. 4,

Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

The U.K. has blamed France for prompting the EU to harden its demands. On Friday, the French European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, reiterated that his government will veto any deal that isn't seen to be in its national interest. President Emmanuel Macron is determined that his fishing industry won't lose a big part of its access to British waters. He also wants U.K. businesses to be tied to strict rules on state aid and labor standards so they don't have what he sees as an unfair advantage.

Read More: The Australia, Canada Models for Post-Brexit Trade

A breakthrough isn't imminent, said one EU official on condition of anonymity, adding that fundamental differences between the two sides still need to be bridged. Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, will remain in London for talks after canceling plans to update EU ambassadors in Brussels on Friday.

Earlier in the week there had been optimism that an agreement could be reached quickly. That way a deal could be inked before highly controversial U.K. legislation returns to the House of Commons. Negotiators had been concerned that the Internal Market Bill could rebound on their deliberations.

It's going to be a long weekend, and it is not certain whether we'll have a decision – deal or no deal – by the end of it.

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