Brexit: Michel Barnier gives update on state of negotiations
Michel Barnier and Lord Frost have been locked in tight negotiations with the UK as the deal to secure a Brexit trade deal continues. Mr Barnier stressed it was a “crucial moment” for both sides as the sides look to clear the decks over fisheries, a key sticking point in the trade talks along with rules on maintaining fair competition.
The EU side has hinted it remained open for Brexit talks beyond January 1st but UK officials are determined for one to be secured by January 1st.
One Whitehall official close to the negotiations told Express.co.uk the EU needed to “give in” on fishing and made clear talks won’t continue “beyond January 1st.”
This publication understands the UK had offered a cut of about a third in the number of fish EU vessels catch in British waters over a five-year period.
This is down from an initial demand to cut it by 60 percent over three years, but the compromise was rejected by Brussels.
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The source added: “A deal is certainly possible by today.
“It is heavily reliant on the EU though respecting UK sovereignty, however.
“Many would like to get home Christmas after this intense period of talks.”
Another source told Express.co.uk: “Boris Johnson has said the UK will not accept any trade deal and we are working hard to achieve one which is right.”
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he was “reasonably optimistic” about the prospect of a Brexit trade deal with the European Union.
But speaking this morning, he stressed: “There is still the same serious areas of disagreement, whether that is on fisheries or the level playing field.
“We are working through those issues, our negotiators will keep going – the Prime Minister has been very clear that he is going to negotiate until the very end which is December 31 because that is the right thing, it is what the British public would expect.
“But at the moment there isn’t sufficient progress, it isn’t a deal that the Prime Minister feels he can sign us up to because it doesn’t yet respect us, in full, as a sovereign, independent nation.”
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Boris Johnson is in “close contact” with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in a sign of the intensive diplomatic activity in a bid to get the deadlock secured.
Whitehall sources close to the talks indicated the pair were speaking “occasionally”.
Addressing ambassadors from the 27 EU countries and MEPs EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the talks were at a “crucial moment”.
He added: “In 10 days, the UK will leave the single market.”
The Prime Minister has also continued to insist the UK will “prosper mightily” without a deal, despite warning that it could add further damage to an economy already ravaged by coronavirus.
Mr Johnson said: “Prosper mightily remains an extremely good description of life after January 1 either way.”
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