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Brexit: EU’s Michel Barnier says ‘we are not far from take it or leave it moment’

EU’s Michel Barnier says ‘we are not far from take it or leave it moment’ as he resumes make-or-break Brexit trade deal talks with Lord Frost in London

  • Michel Barnier arrived in London on Friday evening to resume trade talks
  • Face-to-face talks were suspended after EU official tested positive for Covid
  • Formal talks will now take place over weekend as hopes of breakthrough grow
  • Lord Frost said ‘it is late’ but a trade agreement with Brussels ‘is still possible’ 

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said ‘we are far from the take it or leave it moment’ as he resumed make-or-break Brexit talks with Lord Frost today.

Mr Barnier arrived in London last night as both sides scramble to hash out a deal on future trading arrangements before Britain leaves the transition period in January.

It is the first time Lord Frost has met face-to-face with Mr Barnier since the French diplomat went into self-isolation after a member of his team caught coronavirus.

As it stands, Britain will leave the EU’s trade and customs area in five weeks with talks on a follow-on agreement stalled over fishing rights and fair trade rules.

Both parties warned yesterday that success was not guaranteed, with Mr Barnier tweeting that the ‘same significant divergences persist’.

A failure to strike an accord would result in a chaotic divorce on January 1, with the two sides forced to trade on World Trade Organisation terms which would see tariffs imposed on goods travelling into and out of the continent.

There is now huge pressure on negotiators to conclude the talks as soon as possible because of the amount of time it will take the EU to ratify and roll out any deal. 

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said 'we are far from the take it or leave it moment' as he resumed make-or-break Brexit talks with Lord Frost today

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said 'we are far from the take it or leave it moment' as he resumed make-or-break Brexit talks with Lord Frost today

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said ‘we are far from the take it or leave it moment’ as he resumed make-or-break Brexit talks with Lord Frost today

Lord Frost

Lord Frost

Michel Barnier

Michel Barnier

Lord Frost said he believes a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU ‘is still possible’ as Michel Barnier heads to London to resume face-to-face negotiations

There are fears that if talks continue beyond next week then the bloc could struggle to complete the ratification and implementation process before January 1. 

‘We are not far from the take it or leave it moment,’ Mr Barnier later told EU ambassadors, according to a source familiar with the closed-door meeting.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lead negotiator Lord Frost said that people were ‘asking me why we are still talking,’ he said in a tweet. 

‘It’s my job to do my utmost to see if the conditions for a deal exist. It is late but a deal is still possible, and I will continue to talk until it’s clear that it isn’t. 

‘But for a deal to be possible it must fully respect UK sovereignty. That is not just a word – it has practical consequences. 

‘That includes: controlling our borders; deciding ourselves on a robust and principled subsidy control system; and controlling our fishing waters.

‘We look to reach an agreement on this basis, allowing the new beginning to our relationship with the EU which, for our part, we have always wanted. We will continue to work hard to get it – because an agreement on any other basis is not possible.’ 

Britain has been trading on the same terms with the EU since it officially left the bloc in January as part of a transition agreement that expires at the end of the year.  

It is the first time Lord Frost has met face-to-face with Mr Barnier since the French diplomat went into self-isolation after a member of his team caught coronavirus

It is the first time Lord Frost has met face-to-face with Mr Barnier since the French diplomat went into self-isolation after a member of his team caught coronavirus

It is the first time Lord Frost has met face-to-face with Mr Barnier since the French diplomat went into self-isolation after a member of his team caught coronavirus

Mr Barnier arrived in London last night as both sides scramble to hash out a deal on future trading arrangements before Britain leaves the transition period in January

Mr Barnier arrived in London last night as both sides scramble to hash out a deal on future trading arrangements before Britain leaves the transition period in January

Mr Barnier arrived in London last night as both sides scramble to hash out a deal on future trading arrangements before Britain leaves the transition period in January 

If the two parties fail to secure a post-Brexit deal, a no-deal scenario is widely expected to cause economic chaos, with customs checks required at borders.  

Concern is particularly acute on the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, where the sudden imposition of a hard border threatens the delicate peace secured by 1999’s Good Friday Agreement. 

Mr Johnson spoke with Irish premier Micheal Martin late Friday and ‘underlined his commitment to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the UK’.

But he also ‘reaffirmed the need to prioritise the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland,’ according to London.  

Mr Johnson earlier told reporters the ‘likelihood of a deal is very much determined by our friends and partners in the EU’, adding there were ‘substantial and important differences to be bridged.’

A key sticking point is the EU’s demand for a post-Brexit ‘level playing field’, with punishing trade penalties if either side diverges from agreed standards or state aid regulations, but Britain does not want to be bound by rules made in Brussels.

Britain’s fishing waters are also a hot topic, with sources on Friday saying that Barnier told envoys that London was asking that European access to them be cut by 80 percent, while the EU was willing to accept 15 to 18 percent.

The talks have already pushed on much longer than expected and time is running out for ratification of any deal by the European Parliament by the end of the year.

Lord Frost said he believed a deal can still be achieved as he vowed to 'continue to talk until it's clear' that the two sides cannot reach an agreement. However, he said for a deal to be done it 'must fully respect UK sovereignty' as he stressed that is 'not just a word'

Lord Frost said he believed a deal can still be achieved as he vowed to 'continue to talk until it's clear' that the two sides cannot reach an agreement. However, he said for a deal to be done it 'must fully respect UK sovereignty' as he stressed that is 'not just a word'

Lord Frost said he believed a deal can still be achieved as he vowed to ‘continue to talk until it’s clear’ that the two sides cannot reach an agreement. However, he said for a deal to be done it ‘must fully respect UK sovereignty’ as he stressed that is ‘not just a word’

Members of the European Parliament have expressed frustration with the delays and may have to ratify a deal between Christmas and the New Year.

In Brussels, one source close to the talks said she would ‘eat my hat’ if there was a deal by Monday, echoing a chorus of complaints that Johnson was playing the clock 

Last night, Mr Barnier said he was ‘very happy to be back in London’ and vowed to ‘continue the work with patience and determination’.  

The Frenchman, who arrived at St Pancras International, had said yesterday morning that the ‘same significant divergences persist’.

Lord Frost said he believed a deal can still be achieved as he vowed to ‘continue to talk until it’s clear’ that the two sides cannot reach an agreement. 

However, he said for a deal to be done it ‘must fully respect UK sovereignty’ as he stressed that is ‘not just a word’ but something which has ‘practical consequences’.   

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