Brexit trade deal ‘could be reached next week’ – but may not be sealed until December 28
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned time is short (Image: AFP via Getty Images)
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A Brexit trade deal could be reached “early next week”, it’s claimed – but it may not be signed off until three days before the deadline.
UK chief negotiator David Frost has told Boris Johnson to expect a “possible landing zone” from next Tuesday, The Sun reports.
But the talks could still collapse due to major splits over fishing rights and the “level playing field” of how far to follow EU rules.
An EU source did not deny the claim, but told the Mirror it would only happen if the UK compromises on the level playing field.
The source added: “We are focused on the quality of the deal – not on a deadline.”
An EU source said: “We are focused on the quality of the deal – not on a deadline"
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Talks on a UK-EU trade deal are continuing in Brussels despite hopes they’d have concluded first by mid-October, then mid-November.
Now the Guardian reports that, even if a deal is reached, it might not get signed off in the European Parliament until December 28.
That would mean a deal on new tariffs and trading rules being sealed just three days before it comes into effect.
A source told the newspaper the parliament wanted six weeks to do the paperwork on any deal, putting a December 16 debate in danger.
There have been talks about a potential extraordinary sitting of the European Parliament between Christmas and New Year, it’s claimed.
Boris Johnson has warned he is willing to crash out of the transition period with no deal when current trading rules end on December 31.
Lord David Frost is the UK's chief negotiator
That could trigger long lorry queues at Britain’s ports as traders get used to new customs procedures.
And it could hike the prices of everyday goods as billions of pounds of imports are slapped with higher tariffs.
According to The Sun, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma are urging a compromise.
But Britain’s fishing lobby groups today urged the Prime Minister to “hold firm and bring back a deal” that meets their demands.
"Anything given away now will never be regained,” a joint letter by two organisations warned.
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Lorries queue to enter the port of Dover in Kent
There are also splits over level playing field rules – which aim to prevent unfair competition by cutting workers' rights or environmental protections.
Mr Frost previously warned he would not be softening his stance despite Brexiteer Dominic Cummings leaving Downing Street.
He said there is "only one" deal compatible with UK sovereignty and warning that "we may not succeed".
His EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, said negotiators remain "determined" and "patient".
But the Prime Minister's official spokesman called for the EU to show more "realism”. He said "time is now very short" to bridge what he acknowledged are "significant differences".
Some have called for a grace period to allow any new trading rules to take effect
Ireland's foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney warned that talks on a post-Brexit trade deal will collapse if no progress is made on fishing.
"What the British Government have promised to their fishing industry, versus what Michel Barnier's negotiating mandate from the EU is, there's a very, very wide gap," he said.
"It's not good. That's the truth of it. These negotiations are not in a good place when it comes to fishing."
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey and former Siemens boss Juergen Maier urged the PM to provide “breathing space” of up to six months to introduce a new trade deal.
They warned the PM industry is already dealing with the "unprecedented" challenges caused by Covid-19 and that the threat to some firms was "existential".