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Europe's week: Brexit talks stuck as EU budget finally moves forward

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Boris Johnson and Ursual von der Leyen meet in Brussels on Wednesday 9th December
Boris Johnson and Ursual von der Leyen meet in Brussels on Wednesday 9th December   -   Copyright  Olivier Hoslet/AP
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It's fair to say that when it comes to Brexit the time for emotions has long gone.

Britain is due to stop following EU rules on December 31 when the transition period ends, but talks between the two have been dragging on for months now, with both sides re-confirming their commitment again and again.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had dinner for two in Brussels on Wednesday, in what many hoped would break the deadlock, but only served to extend the negotiation deadline (again) to the end of the week.

And so both sides began turning up the volume on a no-deal Brexit being more likely.

"We would like a free trade deal with the EU," Dominic Raab, the UK's foreign minister said. "But we're not going to sacrifice the basic points of democratic principles on fisheries on control over our laws as we leave the transition period."

EU budget deal

It wasn't all doom and gloom for EU negotiations though.

A deal was finally agreed between EU leaders at their final summit of the year, on pressing ahead with the bloc's €1.8tn seven-year budget and pandemic recovery fund. It came after Hungary and Poland lifted their veto over concerns at a mechanism MEPs attached to the package linking the receipt of funds to respect for European core values, such as the rule of law.

The leaders also reached an agreement over reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% over the next ten years, compared to 1990 levels.

Germany opts for tighter COVID restrictions

On coronavirus, Germany opted for stricter measures over Christmas, with Chancellor Angela Merkel, proposing to shut schools, restrict social contact and, generally speaking, for citizens to show more discipline than before.

Ultimately though, the decision is up to the German states and not the federal government.

But in a rare show of emotion at the Bundestag, this week, the normally restrained Merkel argued passionately in favour of the strictest possible measures – and rarely has she been so emotional in public.

"It may be that the abolition of compulsory education is the wrong thing to do, then it must be online teaching or something else. I do not know. That's not my competence, I don't want to get interfering. I just want to say that if we have too many contacts now before Christmas and then it's our last Christmas with our grandparents, then we will have been negligent. We should not do that, ladies and gentlemen," Merkel said.