British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has underlined the post-Brexit trade negotiations between Britain and the European Union (EU) were now "in a serious situation," a Downing Street spokesperson said Thursday.
"The Prime Minister underlined that the negotiations were now in a serious situation. Time was very short and it now looked very likely that an agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially," said the spokesperson in a statement issued after a phone call between Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen Thursday evening, reports Xinhua.
Britain was "making every effort to accommodate reasonable EU requests on the level playing field, but even though the gap had narrowed some fundamental areas remained difficult," said the statement.
"On fisheries he (Johnson) stressed that the UK could not accept a situation where it was the only sovereign country in the world not to be able to control access to its own waters for an extended period and to be faced with fisheries quotas which hugely disadvantaged its own industry," said the statement.
"The EU's position in this area was simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly," it added.
The prime minister repeated that little time was left and "if no agreement could be reached, the UK and the EU would part as friends, with the UK trading with the EU on Australian-style terms," said the statement. Australia trades with the EU largely on the World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.
"The leaders agreed to remain in close contact, said the statement.
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For her part, von der Leyen said on Twitter that the EU "welcomed substantial progress on many issues. However, big differences remain to be bridged, in particular on fisheries. Bridging them will be very challenging."
"Negotiations will continue tomorrow," she said.
Earlier Thursday, British Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said the British government "will be doing everything" to secure a good post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.
However, Gove reaffirmed that Britain would walk away if a trade deal was not "in the best interests of our country".
Also on Thursday, EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier noted that "good progress" has been made in the trade negotiations.
"Good progress, but last stumbling blocks remain. We will only sign a deal protecting EU interests and principles," he tweeted after updating European Parliament leaders on the negotiations.
Also read: UK PM to try for Dec. 12 election
The British and EU leaders have previously said significant differences remained between the two sides on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries. The latest reports suggested that fishing rights remains the last major sticking issue between the two sides.
The trade negotiations are at a crucial stage as time is running out for both sides to secure a deal before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.
Failure to reach a free trade agreement means bilateral trade will fall back on WTO rules in 2021.
As French President Emmanuel Macron rides out the coronavirus in a presidential retreat at Versailles, French doctors are warning families who are heading for the holidays to remain cautious because of an uptick in infections — especially at the dinner table.
While Macron routinely wears a mask and adheres to social distancing rules, he hosted or took part in multiple group meals in the days before testing positive Thursday. Critics say that’s a bad example for compatriots advised to keep their gatherings to six people, reports AP.
Macron is suffering from fever, cough and fatigue, officials with the presidency said Friday. They wouldn’t provide details of his treatment. He is staying at the presidential residence of La Lanterne in the former royal city of Versailles.
Macron’s positive test comes as French health authorities are again seeing a rise in infections and warning of more as French families prepare to get together for Christmas and New Year festivities. France reported another 18,254 new infections Thursday and its death toll is just under 60,000.
Also read: Covid-19: Global cases pass 75 million
France’s Pasteur Institute released a study Friday suggesting that meal times at home and in public are a major source of contamination. Pasteur epidemiologist Arnaud Fontanet said on France-Inter radio Friday that during the holidays, “we can see each other, simply not be too numerous, and at critical moments at meals, not too many people at the same table.”
Macron’s aides have scrambled to contact all the people he had been near in recent days. The French health minister suggested that he might have been infected at an EU summit in Brussels last week, but Macron had multiple meetings in Paris as well.
Macron took a test “as soon as the first symptoms appeared” on Thursday morning and will self-isolate for seven days, in line with national health authorities’ recommendations, the presidency said in a brief statement. The 42-year-old president “will continue to work and take care of his activities at a distance,” the statement added. Macron went ahead with a planned speech by videoconference Thursday.
The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made life on the streets of Berlin any easier for Kaspars Breidaks.
For three months, the 43-year-old Latvian has faced homeless shelters operating at reduced capacity so that people can be kept at a safe distance from one another. And with fewer Berliners going outdoors, it’s much harder to raise money by panhandling or collecting bottles to sell for recycling, reports AP.
But on a chilly winter morning this week Breidaks found himself with a free hot meal and a place to warm up, after the German capital’s biggest restaurant, the Hofbraeu Berlin — itself closed down due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions — shifted gears to help the homeless.
“Other homeless people at the train station told me about this place,” Breidaks said, removing a furry black hat with long ear flaps as he sat on a bench in the warm, spacious beer hall near Berlin’s landmark Alexanderplatz square. “I came here for hot soup.”
It was a restaurant employee who volunteers at a shelter who proposed opening up the shuttered Bavarian-style beer hall — patterned after the famous Munich establishment of the same name — to the homeless.
It was a clear win-win proposition, said Hofbraeu manager Bjoern Schwarz. As well as helping out the homeless during tough times the city-funded project also gives needed work to employees — and provides the restaurant with welcome income.
In cooperation with the city and two welfare organizations, the restaurant quickly developed a concept to take in up to 150 homeless people in two shifts every day until the end of the winter, and started serving meals on Tuesday.
It’s only a small number compared with the 3,000 restaurant guests, primarily tourists, who would pack the establishment during good times. But the spacious halls have proved perfectly suited to bring in the homeless and give them each plenty of space to avoid infections.
“Normally, during Christmas time, we would have many groups here for Christmas parties and then we’d serve pork knuckles, half a duck or goose ... but not at the moment,” said Schwarz. “We’re still doing delivery, but obviously that’s only a drop in the bucket.”
In addition to serving food and non-alcoholic drinks and offering the warmth of indoors, the restaurant provides its bathrooms for the homeless to wash up, and the GEBEWO and Berlin Kaeltehilfe relief groups have workers on hand to provide counseling and new clothes, if needed.
For its new clientele, the restaurant opened a second-floor, wooden-decorated hall, and put up 40 long tables.
“We’ll offer them something different from the regular soup kitchen food — real dishes on porcelain plates, with different sides, we’ll try to offer Christmas-style dishes with lot of flavors,” Schwarz said.
Breidaks came to Germany three months ago looking for work. But he says a promised meat factory job never materialized and he ended up on the streets of Berlin begging for the money needed to replace a stolen passport and buy a bus ticket back home.
He's one of an estimated 2,000 to 12,000 people who remain homeless in this city of 3.6 million, even after another 34,000 were put up in community shelters, hostels and apartments by social services and private welfare groups.
“The corona pandemic has seriously worsened the situation for homeless people, they live in very precarious conditions,” said Elke Breitenbach, the Berlin state government’s senator for social issues, whose department supports the restaurant-turned-shelter financially.
“They don't have enough to eat and when it's cold they must have places to warm up,” Breitenbach added.
On Thursday, the first shivering group that entered the Hofbraeu along with Breidaks were served either Thuringia-style bratwurst with mashed potatoes, sauerkraut and onion sauce, or a vegetarian stew with potatoes, zucchini, bell pepper and carrots. For dessert there was apple strudel with vanilla sauce.
For Breidaks, that was more than he had expected after spending a night with sub-zero temperatures huddled up next to the walls of a big department store on Alexanderplatz.
“All I need is hot soup," he said. "And, God willing, I will go back home in January.”
The European Union (EU) will start vaccination for COVID-19 after Christmas, the bloc's executive chief Ursula von der Leyen announced on Thursday.
Also read: Covid-19: Global cases surge past 49 million
"It's Europe's moment. On 27, 28 and 29 December vaccination will start across the EU," von der Leyen tweeted, reports Xinhua.
The announcement came two days after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) decided to bring forward a meeting to conclude its assessment of the vaccine jointly developed by Germany's BioNTech and America's Pfizer.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID-19, and a number of EU leaders including European Council President Charles Michel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, as well as Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Angel Gurria went into self-quarantine after having lunch with Macron one day earlier.
According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Wednesday, there were 222 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 56 of them were in clinical trials.
French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for COVID-19, the presidential Elysee Palace announced on Thursday.
It said the president took a test “as soon as the first symptoms appeared.” The brief statement did not say what symptoms Macron experienced.
It said he would isolate himself for seven days. “He will continue to work and take care of his activities at a distance,” it added.
It was not immediately clear what contact tracing efforts were in progress. Macron attended a European Union summit at the end of last week, where he notably had a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He met Wednesday with the prime minister of Portugal. There was no immediate comment from Portuguese officials.
Also read: Worldwide Covid-19 cases cross 74 million
Macron on Wednesday also held the government’s weekly Cabinet meeting in the presence of Prime Minister Jean Castex and other ministers. Castex’s office said that the prime minister is also self-isolating for seven days.
The French presidency confirmed that Macron’s trip to Lebanon scheduled for next week is being canceled.
Macron and other government officials repeatedly say that they are sticking to strict sanitary protocols during the pandemic, including not shaking hands, wearing a mask and keeping distance from other people.
Macron is following French health authorities’ recommendations that since September have reduced the self-isolation time from 14 days to seven. Authorities said at the time that this is the period when there is the greatest risk of contagion and that reducing it allows better enforcement of the measure.
French health authorities argued this week that the 14-day quarantine was not well-respected by many in the country who considered it too long.