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Remarks by President Charles Michel following the first working session of the European Council

Statements and remarks by President Charles Michel | 15 October 2020

First of all I would like to apologise for the absence of the President of the European Commission. At the beginning of the meeting she was informed that a person considered a ‘close contact’ had tested positive. She herself tested negative today. Nevertheless, in accordance with the national rules, she has decided to self-isolate.

We have had the opportunity today to hold a debate as planned on the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

On Brexit, we are united and determined to reach an agreement. But not at any cost.

Any agreement on our future relationship would have to be based on our mandate, in particular when it comes to the level playing field, fisheries and governance.

A level playing field is critical because it ensures fair competition. For example, if the UK were to produce cars without respecting our EU standards, and with the support of massive subsidies, how could we be expected to grant them access to our markets with no tariffs and no quotas? That would be unfair and would risk hundreds of thousands of European jobs.

On those issues, we are concerned by the lack of progress at the negotiating table. We are 100 percent united. And we fully trust and support our chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, to continue negotiations. And we call on the UK to make the necessary moves.

As regards the Withdrawal Agreement and its Protocols, they must be fully implemented. Full stop. And that’s also a question of international credibility for the UK.

In parallel, we will step up our work, at all levels and for all outcomes, including that of a no deal.

You will have gathered that we have had the opportunity today not only to listen carefully to the briefing given by our chief negotiator Michel Barnier. We have also underlined the unity of the European Union in this negotiation process. We wish to do our utmost to make an agreement with the United Kingdom possible; at the same time, we will continue to defend the principles we deem important: the level playing field, the governance of the agreement and the question of fisheries are, of course, issues for which we have, from the outset, set out a series of principles and commitments of importance to us.

We are ready to continue the negotiations, and we have stated an extremely calm, equable European position – it is against this backdrop that we hope progress can be made so as to achieve clarity as soon as possible.

Compliments of the European Council.