Brexit news latest – Boris admits MAJOR roadblocks still stalling trade deal talks after EU's 'extreme' deadline threat

BORIS Johnson has admitted "substantial differences" are still blocking hopes of a UK-EU trade deal.

Face-to-face Brexit talks are set to resume in London this weekend, EU sources say.

Last week, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier had to self isolate after a colleague tested positive for Covid, suspending all in-person negotiations.

However, there are renewed hopes for in-person talks after one senior EU figure suggested to the BBC that the talks could be brief.

The news comes as the EU has threatened to PULL OUT of post-Brexit trade talks while Dublin says it is "imperative" for everyone involved that a deal is agreed.

Talks remain stalled over the thorny issues of fishing and state aid as the clock ticks down to the end of the transition period on December 31.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen says the bloc is prepared for the UK to leave without a trade deal.

Follow our Brexit live blog for all the latest news and updates…

 

  • Jon Rogers

    FROST LOOKING FORWARD TO WELCOMING BARNIER

    The UK's top Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has said he is looking forward to welcoming the return of Michel Barnier to London.

    Talks between the EU and UK are set to restart tomorrow following a break after one of the EU's team tested positive for the coronavirus.

    Lord Frostadded he looked forward to coming to an agreement with Brussels over a trade deal.

    But he continued to talk tough with the bloc saying any agreement would have to include controlling the UK's borders, sovereignty over a subsidy control system and maintaining control of our fishing waters.

  • Jon Rogers

    2% HIT TO UK'S GDP IF NO BREXIT DEAL

    The Office for Budget Responsibility said that failure to reach an agreement with Brussels could result in a 2% hit to gross domestic product, the standard measure of the size and health of a nation's economy.

    Mr Johnson's spokesman said: "The PM believes that the UK will thrive with or without a deal with the EU.

    "But it remains our ambition to reach an FTA (Free Trade Agreement), which is why we continue to negotiate."

    The UK will leave the single market and customs union at the end of December.

  • Jon Rogers

    FACE-TO-FACE TALKS TO RESUME

    Top-level, face-to-face Brexit talks are to resume in London, the EU's chief negotiator has said.

    However, Michel Barnier warned ahead of a meeting with his UK counterpart, Lord Frost, that "significant divergences" still remain.

    In-person negotiations in Brussels were suspended a week ago after a member of Mr Barnier's team contracted coronavirus.

    Mr Barnier tweeted on Friday: "In line with Belgian rules, my team and I are no longer in quarantine. Physical negotiations can continue.

    "I am briefing Member States & @Europarl_EN today. Same significant divergences persist. Travelling to London this evening to continue talks w/ @DavidGHFrost + team."

  • Jon Rogers

    OPTIMISM OVER BREXIT DEAL SEES STERLING SURGE

    Sterling hovered near its three month high on Friday.

    Weakness in the U.S. dollar amid thin trading due to the Thanksgiving holiday further bolstered sterling, which has crept to a three-month high in recent days on optimism over Brexit talks between Britain and the European Union.

    With five weeks left of a transition period before Britain leaves the bloc, markets anticipate a deal can be struck even though stumbling blocks remain.

    Analysts cautioned that the pound could be in for a bumpy ride in the months ahead despite its current strength, as the twin threats of Brexit and the Scottish vote crystallise.

    "Deal or no deal, theres sure to be chaos early next year. If that encourages people to vote to leave the UK it would be a double blow to the currency," said Marshall Gittler, Head of Investment Research at BDSwiss Group in a research note.

  • Jon Rogers

    'TOUGH' TO MAKE PROGRESS IN TALKS

    A source close to the negotiations said it had been "tough" recently to make progress.

    With just five weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU's orbit on December 31, both sides are calling on the other to compromise to avoid a tumultuous finale to the five-year Brexit crisis.

    Face-to-face negotiations will resume shortly after they had to be suspended last week when one of Michel Barnier's team tested positive for the coronavirus.

  • Jon Rogers

    NO 'BRIGHT PICTURE' FOR BREAKTHROUGH IN TALKS

    EU officials have played down hopes of a breakthrough in the trade talks between the UK and Brussels.

    In a closed-door meeting for national diplomats in Brussels, Barnier said that he was not able to say yet whether a new UK trade deal would be ready in time, a source revealed.

    The talks are still snagged on three main issues, fair competition guarantees, governance and fisheries, but neither, so far, have shown a willingness to shift enough on them to make way for any breakthrough.

    Barnier told EU envoys differences persist on the three controversial issues, a senior EU diplomat told Reuters.

    The Barnier presentation did not present "a particularly bright picture" of the talks, the diplomat added.

  • Jon Rogers

    BARNIER TO TRAVEL TO UK THIS EVENING

    European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he was no longer in quarantine so would travel to London later on Friday to continue negotiations on a Brexit trade deal.

    "In line with Belgian rules, my team and I are no longer in quarantine. Physical negotiations can continue," Barnier said. "Travelling to London this evening to continue talks."

  • Jon Rogers

    SIGNS BRUSSELS COULD CONCEDE ON FISHING RIGHTS

    Hopes of a breakthrough on trade talks with the EU grew stronger overnight after signs Brussels could concede on fishing rights emerged.

    EU negotiator Michel Barnier is to hold talks with eight EU fisheries ministers and diplomats indicated he could outline a possible compromise.

    The area of fishing rights has been a stumbling block to the UK and EU agreeing a deal.

    An EU diplomat said: "That’s the price the UK needs to pocket for a compromise on the level playing field."

  • Samantha Lock

    TIME RUNNING OUT FOR AGREEMENT ON GIBRALTAR

    Time is running out to find a Brexit agreement between Spain and Britain over Gibraltar, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said.

    At stake in the talks is avoiding a hard European Union border in southern Spain after Britain completes its departure from the EU at the end of this year.

    "Talks between Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar continue, but there too time is running out," Gonzalez Laya told radio station RNE. "We won't stop until the last second, but we expect in this game the active participation of the United Kingdom."

    Spain ceded Gibraltar, a rocky enclave near its southernn tip, to Britain in 1713 after a war, but claims sovereignty over it. About 15,000 people commute daily from Spain to Gibraltar, which has a population of 32,000.

    Spain has agreed to put the issue of its sovereignty claim to one side for now to focus on the opportunity to keep the border with Gibraltar open.

  • Samantha Lock

    42% OF BUSINESSES 'UNPREPARED FOR BREXIT CUSTOMS CHANGES'

    Business have been urged to step up Brexit planning after a survey found only 42 per cent believe they are fully prepared for customs changes.

    A poll conducted by Enterprise Ireland revealed 44 per cent of businesses have yet to decide how to pay customs charges, while 30 per cent have yet to decide who will manage customs procedures.

    Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has appealed to businesses to seek Government help if they need it, with just 35 days left until the Brexit changes kick in.

    The survey of 600 companies showed that while more than half (52 per cent) viewed customs and logistics as a priority, only 4 per cent felt they were significantly or fully ready.

    Over a fifth (22 per cent) were still figuring out what they need to do in relation to priority issues.

    Half of those businesses have yet to determine the potential tariff on their goods.

  • Hana Carter

    EU PLAYED DOWN FISHING MEETING

    EU chiefs have played down the importance of a meeting between fishing bosses and the chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tomorrow.

    Disagreements over fishing have been a sticking point in Brexit negotiations.

    Barnier was allegedly due to head to London for face-to-face talks tomorrow, but when Downing Street was asked about the meeting, a spokesperson said: "that's a matter for the EU and a decision for them".

     

  • Samantha Lock

    EU TO BAN USING LEAD IN WETLAND BIRD HUNTING

    Toxic ammunition is set to be phased out with new regulations seeing lead shots banned from all wetlands in the European Union.

    The European parliament voted against objections lodged by far-right parties, allowing the European commission to introduce the new regulations by the end of the year.

    The ban will ensure that any wildfowl or waterbirds are shot with non-toxic steel ammunition after scientific studies found that 1 million waterbirds are killed by lead poisoning each year, the Guardian reports. Millions more wild birds, including raptors, are poisoned but do not die, with 40 per cent of whooper swans found to have elevated blood lead levels.

    If the regulations come into force before the end of the Brexit transition period, they will become UK law. This would compel some grouse shoots to use non-toxic ammunition because certain grouse moors are peatlands and are classified as wetlands according to the EU definition.

  • Samantha Lock

    EU CONSIDERING STOPGAP MEASURE FOR UK FINANCIAL SERVICES

    European Union assessments of whether to grant market access for banks and other financial firms from Britain will not be completed in time for January and stop-gap measures are being considered, an EU diplomat says.

    Britain’s unfettered access to the EU under transition arrangements ends on Dec. 31, leaving the City of London faced with being cut off from its biggest export customer, worth around 26 billion pounds a year.

    The EU assessments are being made by the European Commission, which declined to comment, under the bloc’s system of direct financial market access known as equivalence.

    “The European Commission told member states on Thursday that the equivalence decisions won’t be ready from January 1,” said the EU diplomat, who took part in the closed-door briefing.

    “They are now looking at how to handle the gap,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the discussions.

  • Jon Rogers

    BREXIT PROBLEMS LIKELY TO FALL TO COURTS TO RESOLVE

    Problems from Brexit will probably fall to courts to resolve, the head of Northern Ireland's judiciary has said.

    Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland Sir Declan Morgan stressed it was too early to say which, if any, issues would arise but noted public debate over the future of the European Arrest Warrant.

    This warrant is employed for sending suspected criminals either way across the Irish border to face courts.

    Sir Declan said: "That is a matter of safety and how procedures might be put in place to deal with that.

    "Some of these things will give rise to problems and the matter will come before the courts."

  • Jon Rogers

    JOHNSON: UK WILL 'THRIVE' WITHOUT EU DEAL

    Boris Johnson has said the UK will "thrive" even without a trade deal with the EU.

    Downing Street insisted that the Government remained committed to securing a post-Brexit trade deal and talks were continuing virtually with Michel Barnier's EU team.

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Negotiations will continue virtually. It's a matter for them when and if they choose to travel."

    The spokesman said the UK side was "committed to working hard" to reach a free-trade agreement (FTA) and were working to "bridge the gaps that remain between us".

    "Throughout the negotiation our position has been consistently clear," the spokesman added.

  • Jon Rogers

    WEEKEND EARLIEST AN EU DEAL COULD BE DONE

    This weekend could see a deal with the EU being struck although it is more likely to come next week.

    An official involved in the negotiations said a deal was possible, but not likely before the weekend at the earliest. An EU diplomat said it was more likely to come next week.

    After a member of the EU's negotiating team tested positive for Covid-19, this week's talks have been conducted virtually – something Britain said it wanted to change as soon as the end of the week if possible, potentially to give them some impetus.

    But it was not clear whether the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who needs to follow the Covid guidance after the positive case, would return to London this week.

    "We want to resume face-to-face negotiations but… it's for the EU to decide when and if they come," the spokesman told reporters.

  • Claudia Aoraha

    SHEEP ARE 'IN LIMBO' BECAUSE OF BAAAREXIT

    Thousands of sheep bound for Northern Ireland are stuck "in limbo" in the UK due to Brexit complexities.

    There is annual trade across the Irish Sea which sees up to 10,000 animals travel.

    They are mostly breeding stock, but strict new rules will apply at the end of the Brexit transition.

    They mean that ewe lambs, bought and paid for by NI farmers at autumn sales, may not be able to come in as usual in spring.

    Edward Adamson, the head of the National Sheep Association in Northern Ireland, said: "These animals have been bought and paid for and are sitting in limbo not allowed to come into Northern Ireland."

  • Claudia Aoraha

    NO.10 REMAINS 'COMMITTED' TO TORY TAX MANIFESTO

    Downing Street has insisted that the government remains committed to the Tory manifesto commitments to not raise income tax, VAT or National Insurance, despite breaking its funding pledge on foreign aid this week.

    “You have seen the manifesto,” Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said, when asked about future tax plans.

    “The chancellor – as any chancellor rightly does – does not speculate on future tax policy. But we obviously remain committed to the manifesto pledge.”

  • Jon Rogers

    POUND NEARS 3-MONTH HIGH

    Sterling held near a three-month high on Thursday as US dollar weakness offset some of the uncertainty about the outcome of Brexit talks.

    Traders are looking for progress on a trade deal between Britain and the European Union. A successful deal is priced in, but fears persist that the discussions could break down.

    The head of the EU executive, the Commission, reported "genuine progress" on Wednesday but said the risk of Britain leaving the bloc without a deal on Dec. 31 remained.

    Sterling, in common with British stocks, has largely shrugged off finance minister Rishi Sunak's unprecedented spending plans announced on Wednesday, as Britain looks to borrow about £400billion ($535 bn) to pay for the Covid-19 hit to the economy.

  • Jon Rogers

    MACRON SPARKS FISHING WAR WITHIN THE EU

    French President Emmanuel Macron has triggered a new fishing war – this time within the EU.

    Macron has moved to secure the bulk of the so-called “adjustment fund” to prop up France’s northern coastal communities.

    The cash pot was announced by European Council President Charles Michel to help countries adjust to Britain’s departure from the bloc’s single market and customs union.

    An EU official told the Irish Times: “Lots of countries are eying up that fund.

    “France are looking to dip into the fund. It will be a lively debate between member states and the Commission.”

  • Jon Rogers

    CHANCELLOR DEFENDS FOREIGN AID CUT

    The Chancellor has insisted Britain is not turning its back on the world's poorest people as he defended the Government's plan to cut the foreign aid budget amid a growing Tory backlash.

    Rishi Sunak admitted it was a "difficult decision" to slash overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income (GNI), but said the UK is in the midst of an "economic emergency".

    A number of prominent Conservatives have publicly expressed concern at the move, announced in Wednesday's Spending Review, which reneges on a manifesto commitment.

    But in an interview with Sky News, Mr Sunak said: "I don't think anyone could characterise our level of support for the poorest countries as turning our back.

    "We'll be spending more as a percentage of GDP than France, Canada, the US, Japan."

  • Jon Rogers

    MINISTER DETAILS BORDER OFFICIAL SHORTAGE

    The UK border potentially needs another 100 officials to deal with post-Brexit paperwork for food products, according to the Environment Secretary.

    George Eustice told MPs there are around 1,000 officers able to issue export health certificates for fish, although Westminster is working with its Scottish Government counterparts to help fill a "gap" in Scotland.

    Speaking in the Commons, SNP MP Richard Thomson (Gordon) said this week's test run for border procedures once the transition period ends demonstrated the "severe chaos" which might be expected in the new year.

    He stressed the need for seafood products to be delivered to market at speed, adding: "What assurances can the Secretary of State make today to the catching and processing sectors that delays will not equal ruined produce and ruined businesses?"

    Mr Eustice replied: "We've been working with the fishing industry and local authorities to ensure they have the capacity in place to employ the environmental health officers necessary to issue both the catch certificates and the environmental health certificates.

    "We have around 1,000 officers now that can issue export health certificates for fish.

    "It is the case there are some concerns in Scotland where the Scottish Government potentially has a gap in capacity of 100, we're working with them to try to offer our help to ensure this gap can be filled."

  • Jon Rogers

    UK DELIVERY PRICES RISE AS FIRMS STOCKPILE

    British businesses are rushing to stockpile goods just five weeks before post-Brexit customs checks come into force on Jan. 1, driving up the cost of cross-border deliveries and cutting capacity, industry sources said.

    Logistics companies told Reuters they have seen a surge in demand to bring goods into the country before any potential disruption in January, and customs agents report being overwhelmed by pleas for help from traders navigating new rules for the first time.

    "We have told our customers that the best thing you can do now is stock up, stockpile, and they're bringing in as much as they can," Jon Swallow, director of Jordon Freight, told Reuters of the changing dynamic in the last two weeks.

    "The consequence of that is there's simply not enough capacity and the prices are going through the roof."

    Swallow said the increased demand had pushed prices up by around 20% in recent weeks and would likely rise further in December.

  • Jon Rogers

    DEVOLUTION THREATENED BY POST-BREXIT TRADE LAW

    Devolution in the UK is threatened by the UK's post-Brexit trade law which would limit the Senedd's powers, it has been claimed.

    Critics say the Welsh Government could lose control of standards for goods and services through the UK's internal markets bill.

    The UK government said it will "protect business and jobs" across Wales.

    Should the bill becomes law, products and services will only need to meet rules in either England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, to be sold throughout the UK.

    Critics say this undermines law-making powers in the devolved nations.

  • Jon Rogers

    EUROPE'S BANKING FIRMS REACH 'PEAK UNCERTAINTY'

    Banking and finance firms across Europe are said to have reached "peak uncertainty" over Brexit.

    The ongoing trade talks, the possibility Britain could diverge from the current rules and regulations and the EU's continued push to have greater control over euro-related activities have left the sector facing unanswered questions, the Financial Times reports.

    Chief executive of the London Stock Exchange Group David Schwimmer told the paper: "This is the period of peak uncertainty."

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