BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg warns EU are sending in four new negotiators as talks go backwards

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Over the weekend, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrived in London for last-minute crucial talks on a post-Brexit trade deal. But as the end of the transition period looms, neither side has still been unable to agree on a deal.

Yesterday, four new negotiators arrived in London to join the crucial negotiations as talks have “gone backwards” in the last 24 hours.

The BBC’s political editor said: “The stumbling blocks certainly aren’t new, but the sense on the UK side is that talks have gone backwards 24 hours.”

Mr Barnier is due to update 27 national envoys to the bloc’s hub Brussels today on the latest in the talks.

EU sources said discussions centred around the level playing field on state aid and fixing future minimum labour and environmental standards.

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They also said they talked about what “effective remedies” each side could take if the other let them slip.

An EU source said talks had become “extremely sluggish” around the level playing field.

The level playing field is a set of common rules and standards preventing businesses in one country gaining a competitive advantage over those operating in other countries.

With less than four weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU’s orbit on December 31, both sides are calling on the other to compromise over fishing, state aid and how to resolve any future disputes.

As talks go down to the wire, a senior British government source said on Thursday evening that the prospect of a breakthrough was receding but was still possible.

They said: “At the eleventh hour, the EU is bringing new elements into the negotiation.

“A breakthrough is still possible in the next few days but that prospect is receding.”

Earlier today, Business Secretary Alok Sharma warned Brexit trade talks are in the difficult phase and a deal can only be secured when the EU accepts Britain is a sovereign nation.

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He told Sky News: “We are at a critical phase.

“It is fair to say that we are in a difficult phase, there are some tricky issues still to be resolved.

“Right from the start of this process, we’ve always said that a deal can only be done if the EU recognises that the UK is a sovereign independent nation.

“It is on the basis of that a deal will be done.”

This warning comes after French European Affairs Minister, Clement Beaune, said there is still a risk of not reaching a deal.

He told Europe 1 radio: “If a good agreement cannot be reached, we will oppose it.

“Each country has a veto right.”

Yester, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters: “If the choice is a deal or no deal, then a deal is obviously in the national interest.”

Sir Keir added he was “consulting across” his party on whether MPs should back a deal if it comes to a vote in the Commons.

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