Brexit update: Is the UK close to a deal? Latest as talks continue

Brexit: Angela Eagle grilled on whether Labour will back deal

Brexit negotiations are reaching crunch time with a deal needing to be agreed this week to avoid a no-deal conclusion to the Brexit transition period. Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU have stalled on three key issues: fishing, the level playing-field and governance. But is the UK close to a deal and what is the latest on Brexit negotiations?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the conclusion of a post-Brexit trade deal is “looking very, very difficult at the moment”.

The UK PM spoke to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during two phone calls within 48 hours but failed to resolve outstanding issues.

The two leaders will meet in person in Brussels “in the coming days” in a bid to agree a deal after months of deadlock.

In a joint statement, the UK Prime Minister and EU Commission President say they had asked negotiators to “prepare an overview of the remaining differences”.

The statement read: “We asked our chief negotiators and their teams to prepare an overview of the remaining differences to be discussed in a physical meeting in Brussels in the coming days”.

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On Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: “You’ve got to be optimistic, you’ve got to believe there’s the power of sweet reason to get this thing over the line.

“But I’ve got to tell you it’s looking very, very difficult at the moment.

“We’ll do our level best, but I would just say to everybody – be in good cheer, there are great options ahead for our country in any view.

“But the key thing is, on January 1, whatever happens there’s going to be change and people need to get ready for that change.”

On Monday both the EU and UK said “significant differences” remain.

Mr Johnson will meet with Ms von der Leyen in Brussels this week in the hopes of agreeing a deal.

He is also expected to remain in Brussels on Thursday in a bid to speak with key EU players including Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, who will visit Brussels for an EU leaders summit.

The UK leader will be unable to join Thursday’s summit, as Britain has now left the EU.

But the EU Summit could be the crucial key to resolving a deal could be discussed during the summit on Thursday as EU leaders could provide Ms von der Leyen with the scope to agree a new mandate before she meets with Mr Johnson.

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The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is due to meet with his British counterpart Lord David Frost today to detail a list of all the outstanding issues.

Mr Barnier said the trade talks needed “a school of patience, even a university of patience”.

On Tuesday, Germany’s Europe minister Michael Roth called for “political will in London” to reach an EU trade deal.

He said: “It’s good that every effort is undertaken to find a sustainable and good solution.

“We want to reach a deal but not at any price. What we need is political will in London. Let me be very clear, our future relationship is based on trust and confidence.

“It’s precisely this confidence that is at stake in our negotiations right now.”

Despite the “significant differences” between the UK and EU’s positions, Mr Johnson today said he is “hopeful” about a resolution, adding “hope springs eternal”.

Mr Johnson said: “We will see where we get to in the course of the next two days, but I think the UK government’s position is that we are willing to engage at any level, political or otherwise, we are willing to try anything.

“But there are just limits beyond which no sensible, independent government or country could go and people have got to understand that.”

The Government declared it will drop parts of legislation which could breach international law after reaching an “agreement in principle” on Brexit support issues.

Cabinet minister Michael Gove said he was “delighted” to have reached an agreement, including on post-Brexit arrangements for the Irish border.

The UK and EU must complete the following in order to agree a deal:

  • Agree the terms for the post-Brexit trade deal including reaching a final decision on the three contentious issues including fishing, level-playing field and governance.
  • The UK Parliament must approve the deal which given Mr Johnson’s Conservative majority is likely to pass.
  • The EU Council, including the EU27 and some harsh Brexit critics, must approve of the deal.
  • The European Parliament must vote on the deal, enabling some anti-Brexiteers such as Guy Verfhofstadt to have their say.
  • If a deal progresses through all of the above stages, it will need final approval from parliaments across Europe if it encroaches on national powers.

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