Remaining differences between the UK and the European Union should not be underestimated, but political will exists to overcome them, Portuguese prime minister António Costa has said.
“For everyone the absence of a deal will be very bad, very bad particularly for neighbouring countries,” Mr Costa said.
“We are on the last dossier. I don’t want to underestimate its significance and its difficulty,” he added.
“We won’t do a deal at any price, but the political will to do a deal is there, and … Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson were very clear that there was common will to surmount the remaining differences. There are still differences, but it is possible to overcome them.”
Portugal is preparing to assume the six-month rotating presidency of the EU on January 1st, taking over from Germany.
The priorities as Mr Costa takes up the role of leading debate and forging consensus between the bloc’s national leaders will be to relaunch the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, while implementing a green and digital transformation of the EU, the social democrat leader said.
Mr Costa warned against attempts by the UK to negotiate directly with national leaders, after prime minister Boris Johnson expressed hopes to speak bilaterally to Berlin and Paris to unlock progress in the talks.
“We have a negotiator, and his name is Michel Barnier, ” Mr Costa said. “It’s very important for these negotiations that all the 27 stay united.”
“We have a unified position on the position that the commission presents with support for Michel Barnier. I believe that we will not reach a good agreement if every head of state or government gives their own opinion and national point of view on the negotiations. The negotiations are conducted by the commission.”