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EU Says “Narrow Path” To A Deal As Trade Talks Continue

UK and EU take a step closer to finding a deal, but no deal remains more likely.

Trade talks remain ongoing in Brussels as officials from both sides race to strike a deal before the UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, has stated that a “narrow path” has opened up for the UK and the EU to strike a post-Brexit trade deal and that the “next [few] days are going to be decisive”.

The talks ended last week with Mr Johnson saying: “As things stand we are still very far apart on key issues. There’s still a deal to be done, but the most likely thing is that we’ve got to be ready for Australia terms on 1st January.”

But the UK PM is then said to have made a key concession over the weekend, accepting the need to ensure that there was fair competition for British and European businesses as regulatory standards diverged over time, had unlocked the talks despite difficult issues.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson signing the EU Withdrawal Agreement – Image ©No10 Crown Copyright Picture by Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Mr Johnson told MPs there was “every opportunity” to reach a deal. He told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions that “whatever happens in the next few days” the UK will “prosper mightily”, whether a deal is found or not.

The EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, said “for the first time” the UK Government had “accepted a mechanism of unilateral measures”, such as tariffs, where there were “systemic divergences which distort trade and investment”.

He added: “But this mechanism needs to be credible, effective and quick. We are working on this.”

Ursula von der Leyen told MEPs the differences over enforcing a deal are “largely being resolved”, but talks over fishing remain “difficult”.

She stated: “We do not question the UK sovereignty on its own waters. But we ask for predictability and stability for our fishermen and our fisherwomen”.

President of the Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen – European Parliament – Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

She continued: “In all honesty, it sometimes feels that we will not be able to resolve this question. But we must continue to try finding a solution. And it is the only responsible and right course of action.”

Armed Royal Navy vessels are being prepared to patrol the UK’s fishing waters if a deal cannot be reached.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, suggested that a deal could be secured by the end of the week to allow the European Parliament to give their consent on 28 December.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said today: “We have made some progress in some areas, but it still remains that there are some significant gaps.” He added that it is “still the case” that the Prime Minister views no deal as “the most likely outcome”.

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