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French, Italian and German Business Leaders Urge EU-UK Trade Deal With ‘Fair Competition’

The presidents of France’s Medef, Italy’s Cofindustria and Germany’s BDI warned the consequences of a no-deal Brexit would be delays at ports and borders, trade tariffs, border controls and unnecessary red tape.

Business federations from France, Italy and Germany have urged the European Union (EU) and the UK to strike a post-Brexit trade deal as the clock ticks down.

Medef president Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, Cofindustria’s Carlo Bonomi and Dieter Kempf of BDI – representing the business elite of the EU’s three biggest economies – noted that the EU leaders’ summit on Thursday and Friday would be critical in reaching an agreement before the UK’s transition period ends on December 31.

“A few weeks before the December 31 deadline, the risk of a no deal is real,” they wrote. “It would lead to cascading consequences for our businesses as well as for our citizens: customs duties, controls, bureaucracy, delays, blockages, outsourcing and so on.

“We call on the leaders of both sides to stay committed to the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration, be pragmatic and explore all possible options to reach a solution which ensures smooth trade conditions, while maintaining the conditions for fair competition between the Union and its British partner.”

The EU’s demand for a regulatory “level playing field” to prevent British businesses out-competing their EU counterparts has been one of the key sticking points in the months of talks between teams led by the UK’s Lord David Frost and France’s Michel Barnier, representing the EU’s powerful Commission.

Earlier on Wednesday sources claimed British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would relax his deadline of this Thursday for a concrete deal with the EU, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel told other EU leaders to be “realistic” about continued fishing access to UK waters.

A Downing Street spokesman later confirmed that Johnson would reserve judgment until after the European Council meeting of the 27 EU heads of state and his talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen later that day, but warned that progress was yet to be made.

“There are still differences, with fisheries being the starkest,” Johnson’s spokesman said. “We need to get substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.”

He added that the PM’s statement last month on the need for a deal well in advance of the New Year “was very clear about the significance of October 15.”

“He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team,” the spokesman said. “We cannot prejudge that decision.”

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