Face-to-face Brexit talks to finally resume this weekend after Covid isolation

Only five weeks remain to secure a Brexit trade deal (Image: Getty)

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Face-to-face Brexit talks to finally resume this weekend after a Covid outbreak interrupted the negotiations.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was due to travel to London late on Friday in a last-ditch attempt to reach a Brexit trade deal as the two sides try to resolve differences over fishing and competition policy.

Negotiations have been going on over video-link after the EU team was forced into quarantine as an official tested positive for coronavirus.

With talks set to go down to the wire, Mr Barnier warned that the "same significant divergences persist".

"In line with Belgian rules, my team and I are no longer in quarantine," he said.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was due to travel to London on Friday to continue Brexit talks
(Image: REUTERS)

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"I am briefing Member States & Europarl-EN today. Same significant divergences persist.

"Travelling to London this evening to continue talks."

If a deal cannot be agreed in time, the UK will be forced to accept World Trade Organisation terms – effectively a no-deal Brexit.

It comes after the Government's fiscal watchdog warned that a no-deal exit would wipe a further 2% off UK output and push the economy recovery from Covid-19 back by nearly a year.

Boris Johnson admitted there were still "substantial and important differences" between both sides.

Speaking on a visit to a lab in Wiltshire, he said: "The likelihood of a deal is very much determined by our friends and partners in the EU – there's a deal there to be done if they want to do it."

Lord Frost, the UK's Brexit chief, said a deal was still possible despite the late hour and he would do his "utmost" to press on.

"Some people are asking me why we are still talking," he said on Twitter.

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"My answer is that 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."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said talks would resume on Saturday and continue on a daily basis,

He said: "At this late stage a deal is still possible and we are working to achieve one."

Mr Barnier held a private meeting with EU diplomats on Friday, where he reportedly set out the ongoing issues to progress.

A diplomat in the briefing said: "Without London taking the necessary decisions quickly, reaching a deal will be all but impossible.

"Time is running out quickly. There are only a few days left for further negotiations."

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