The European Union is still negotiating a trade deal with Britain, a top official with the bloc said on Friday morning, stressing that any agreement that may emerge between negotiators must still be approved by the 27 member states.
European Council President Charles Michel said the next few days will show what comes next and the 27 leaders meeting remotely on Dec. 10-11 will take a position on the latest developments, as a deal on future relations between the EU and Britain hangs in the balance.
"It's unfortunate that it took longer than planned, but we're still currently negotiating," Michel told a news conference. "We'll see over the next few days what the next steps are at this point in the negotiations."
He said the bloc's executive, the European Commission, which is negotiating with Britain on behalf of the 27 EU countries, will inform member states of the result of the negotiations once they are concluded.
"We want a deal but not at any price," Michel said. "For the European Union ... the 'level playing field' is key."
He said any final approval by the 27 EU leaders would depend on the "balance" of any deal, especially on the most thorny issues: agreeing access to fishing waters and sharing out fishing rights, finding ways to settle disputes, and ensuring a "level playing field", or fair competition for companies.
Michel said it was essential to ensure that any deal was acceptable to the whole bloc, and that the UK had to decide if it wanted to sign up to ambitious social, labour and environment production standards to get a deal.
"If one side of the table rejects (a tentative agreement), it's a no-deal," Michel said. "We will need to assess what will be probably on the table.
"The real question is, which political, economic, social project do they want for their own future? And this is a question for the British government and for the British people."