Brexit news live – EU chief hails 'better progress' in UK trade talks as Barnier stuck in Covid isolation

TALKS on an EU-UK trade deal have made “better progress” in recent days, the president of the European Commission has said.

Ursula von der Leyen said there were still “quite some metres to the finish” but that there had been “more movement” on important issues.

Her cautiously upbeat assessment comes after face-to-face negotiations were temporarily suspended on Thursday after a member of Michel Barnier's EU negotiating team tested positive for Covid-19.

Both sides will have to continue the talks online as they race against the clock to get the deal over the line.

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

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    CONTINUED

    While the three main outstanding issues – fisheries, state aid rules and governance arrangements – were still to be resolved, she said negotiators were now working from legal texts with “substance where you can go through line by line”.

    “Progress, for example, has been made on the question of state aid,” she said.

    However with the current Brexit transition period due to end at the end of the year when Britain will finally leave the single market and the customs union, she acknowledged time was tight if they were to get a deal in time.

    “There are quite some metres to the finish line. Indeed, time pressure is high without any question at the moment,” she said.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson's official spokesman said the Government still wanted to get an agreement “as quickly or as soon as possible”.

    He said talks would continue remotely over the weekend and into the early part of next week with face-to-face negotiations expected to resume once it was considered safe.

    “As soon as talks can resume in person they will,” the spokesman said.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    EU CHIEF HAILS 'BETTER PROGRESS' IN POST-BREXIT TRADE TALKS

    Talks on a post-Brexit trade deal have made “better progress” in recent days, the president of the European Commission has said, raising hopes that an agreement may be in sight.

    Ursula von der Leyen said there were still “quite some metres to the finish” but that there had been “more movement” on important issues.

    Her cautiously upbeat assessment comes after face-to-face negotiations were temporarily suspended on Thursday after a member of Michel Barnier's EU negotiating team tested positive for Covid-19.

    After weeks of difficult negotiations with little sign of movement, Mrs von der Leyen said she was encouraged by the latest round of meetings.

    “After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress, now we have seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files. This is good,” she said.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    RECAP – CANADIAN PM CONFIDENT ABOUT SEALING DEAL BY END OF YEAR

    Last week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau he was confident of sealing the deal by the end of the year.

    He said: “I know that rolling over and demonstrating free trade deals is important for the U.K. government. Canada is a really easy one. We’re there for it.

    “We’d like to do it, so I am very hopeful that it’s going to get done but that’s up to the U.K. government.”

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    CONTINUED

    Downing Street said talks with Canada on securing a trade deal are at an “advanced stage” and “progressing well”.

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: “We are committed to securing a continuity trade deal with Canada before the end of the transition period.

    “Talks are at an advanced stage and are progressing well.”

    A Department for International Trade spokesperson added: “The UK is committed to seeking to secure a continuity trade deal with Canada before the end of the transition period, and trade talks are at an advanced stage and progressing well.”

    Without a deal Britain and Canada would face tariffs on trade from January when the Brexit transition period ends.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    RECAP – MAPLE RE-LIEF

    Britain is on the verge of striking a lucrative trade deal with Canada – which could be signed off in days.

    Brits are set to benefit from tariff free access to Maple syrup, while industry will continue to access wood, oil and other natural resources.

    Department of Trade insiders are confident of completing negotiations which would replace the agreement the EU has with the vast North American nation.

    Britain is Canada's third largest export market, while British business sold £4bn worth of goods into the market last year.  

    Total trade between the two countries worth about £17 billion.

  • Lottie Tiplady-Bishop

    WHAT IS A NO DEAL BREXIT?

    A No Deal departure from the European Union means leaving without formal arrangements for the future relationship.

    Britain's trade, customs and immigration rules were tied up with the single market and a host of EU regulatory bodies.

    The UK ended up leaving the EU on January 31 with a transition period until December 31 2020.

    While we did leave with a deal – in which this transition period was agreed – there is still the possibility of ending up in a no deal scenario still.

    If there is no arrangement for our future relationship by the end of this period then Britain will have left the EU with no deal and will trade on World Trade Organisation rules.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    BREXIT TRADE DEAL OUTCOME– A COMPREHENSIVE DEAL

    The best-case scenario for both parties, a comprehensive post-Brexit trade deal is still possible and remained the expectation of economists in a Reuters poll published on Friday although they saw a 40% chance of no deal.

    Financial markets are not expecting this outcome, however, and five banks Reuters spoke to on Friday said a surprise agreement would trigger a 5% jump in the value of the British pound to 85 cents against the euro.

    The FTSE 100 would take a hit if the pound jumps as the companies listed in the blue-chip index earn most of their revenues outside the UK.

    An extraordinary rally in safe-haven British government bonds, or gilts, since the Brexit referendum, would probably fizzle out as any deal will ease the uncertainty that has weighed on UK growth prospects.

    Britain's two-year gilt yield hit a record low of around -0.16% in early September as no-deal fears gripped markets.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    CONTINUED

    They've published a survey today which shows a lot of companies still aren't ready for next year.

    A third of firms say they're waiting for the outcome of the negotiations to put plans in place. 

    The amusing ad comes as Brexit talks had to be put on ice today after one of Michel Barnier's team tested positive for Covid.

    Negotiators will continue working online on the legal texts, but it's not yet clear if either of the chiefs will have to isolate.

    A UK Government spokesperson said today: “The Commission has informed us that an official in their delegation has tested positive for Covid -19.

    “We are discussing with them the implications for the negotiations.

    “We have been, and will continue to, act in line with public health guidelines and to ensure the health and welfare our teams.”

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    RECAP – WATCH OUT

    The Brexit monster has returned to Dutch screens today as it gears up for Britain to leave the EU at the end of the year.

    The Government has stepped up its bizaare advert portraying Brexit as a blue furry monster.

    He wakes up, makes himself an English breakfast and a cuppa, before pulling on his Brexit shirt ready to hit the day.

    The advert tagline reads: “Don't let Brexit get in your way.”

    The blue monster mascot was unveiled by EU bosses to encourage companies to prepare for a No Deal Brexit earlier this year.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    BREXIT TRADE DEAL OUTCOME – WHAT'S IN IT FOR THE UK MARKETS?

    British and European Union leaders are aiming to clinch a last-minute Brexit trade deal that would mark an end to the political turmoil that has plagued financial markets since Britons voted to leave the EU nearly 4-1/2 years ago.

    An unexpected failure to agree could end the rally in UK stocks and sterling that has followed recent positive COVID-19 vaccine updates.

    Markets do not appear to be heavily positioned on sterling, government bonds or stocks, meaning either outcome could have a strong short-term impact on trading.

    Analysts say the key issue for markets is the future state of relations between London and Brussels.

    “If there's widespread animosity then it's possible the UK will stumble over lots of mini-cliff edges over the next couple of years,” said Neil Shearing, chief economist at Capital Economics in London.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    UNITED IRELAND 'OFFERS OPPORTUNITY TO TACKLE BREXIT AND RECOVER FROM COVID'

    A reunified Ireland offers the best opportunity to tackle Brexit and economically recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Sinn Fein has claimed.

    A new policy paper by the party, the Economic Benefits of a United Ireland, contends that Westminster decisions have been to the “economic detriment” of Northern Ireland, describing it as the “slowest growing economy on these islands”.

    It advocates the potential of renewable energy across the island and points to the example of the reunification of Germany as how integration and investment, including from the EU, can “substantially improve economic conditions in the smaller jurisdiction involved in transition”.

    Sinn Fein's paper also contends that Irish unity is a “main topic of discussion” in Ireland and internationally, adding that Brexit, the economic consequences of the pandemic and the climate and biodiversity crisis are “best faced with a united Ireland economy”.

    The paper also calls on the Irish Government to prepare for unity, adding it has a “duty and a constitutional obligation” to do so.

    It urges: “The time to begin planning to realise these economic benefits, and the broader benefits of reunification, is now”.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    EU CHIEF HAILS 'BETTER PROGRESS' IN POST-BREXIT TRADE TALKS

    Talks on a post-Brexit trade deal have made “better progress” in recent days, the president of the European Commission has said, raising hopes that an agreement may be in sight.

    Ursula von der Leyen said there were still “quite some metres to the finish” but that there had been “more movement” on important issues.

    Her cautiously upbeat assessment comes after face-to-face negotiations were temporarily suspended on Thursday after a member of Michel Barnier's EU negotiating team tested positive for Covid-19.

    After weeks of difficult negotiations with little sign of movement, Mrs von der Leyen said she was encouraged by the latest round of meetings.

    “After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress, now we have seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files. This is good,” she said.

    While the three main outstanding issues – fisheries, state aid rules and governance arrangements – were still to be resolved, she said negotiators were now working from legal texts with “substance where you can go through line by line”.

    “Progress, for example, has been made on the question of state aid,” she said.

  • Tariq Tahir

    BORIS WANTS DEAL ‘SOON”

    The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the Government still wanted to get an agreement “as quickly or as soon as possible”.

    He said talks would continue remotely over the weekend and into the early part of next week with face-to-face negotiations expected to resume once it was considered safe.

    “As soon as talks can resume in person they will,” the spokesman said.

  • Tariq Tahir

    ‘MACRON DEMANDS TRANSLATION’

    The French president is reportedly insisting that the UK-EU trade deal must be translated into French before he will support it.

    The country’s ambassador to the European Commission told a meeting of senior diplomats in Brussels the deal had to be translated before it got to MEPs for scrutiny, the Telegraph reports.

    “A French version of the deal is key for Paris to approve the deal,” a diplomatic note seen by The Telegraph revealed.

    France said it would not accept MEPs ratifying the deal in English to save time, if an agreement can be reached.

    “There is growing concern that the negotiation process does not proceed quickly enough to ensure the ratification of a possible agreement until the end of the year deadline,” an EU diplomat said.

  • Tariq Tahir

    EU UPBEAT ON TALKS

    EU Commission President has said progress has been made in the negotiations.

    Ursula von der Leyen said “we've seen in the last days, better progress, more movement” adding “this is good”.

    Her comment came a day after a member of the EU negotiating team tested positive for the coronavirus, which led to the high-level talks being suspended.

    She said that because legal texts had made such progress, further discussions by video over the next days could progress since there is now substance where you can go through “line by line”.

  • Tariq Tahir

    GOOD COD

    The issue of fishing rights continues to be a major sticking point in the negotiations.

    As we reported earlier, it was one of the three areas that are still blocking a deal with the EU, one of the block’s diplomats said.

    “Fisheries are not really moving anywhere right now,” said a second EU diplomat now says.

    The other major differences are over guarantees of fair competition and ways to solve future disputes.

  • Tariq Tahir

    POUND STRENTHENS ON DEAL HOPES

    Sterling edged higher against the euro and dollar after an EU official said agreement with the UK is near on most issues.

    The pound gained 0.2 per cent versus to stand at 89.31 pence per euro and versus the dollar, it was up about 0.1 per cent at $1.3282.

    “For some weeks GBP has been supported by the view that some kind of deal will be announced this month,” said Jane Foley, head of FX Strategy at Rabobank.

  • Tariq Tahir

    SO NEAR, YET SO FAR AWAY

    The EU and Britain are very close to agreement on most issues as time runs out for a trade deal.

    But they are still at odds over fishing rights, guarantees of fair competition and ways to solve future disputes, an EU official told ambassadors in Brussels.

    “We are both close and far away,” says Reuters.

    “It seems that we are very close to agreement on most issues but differences on the three contentious issues persist,” said a senior European Union diplomat.

  • Abe Hawken

    SECOND TIME

    It is not the first time coronavirus has disrupted Brexit talks.

    In March, Michel Barnier contracted coronavirus while Lord Frost also self-isolated after developing symptoms.

  • Abe Hawken

    TIME RUNNING OUT

    The need for any deal to be approved by the European Parliament and member states means there is very little time left for negotiations.

    The major issues in the talks remain access to UK fishing waters, the “level playing field” designed to prevent unfair competition on issues including state subsidies and the governance arrangements for any agreement.

    Going into this round of negotiations in Brussels Lord Frost said there had been “some progress in a positive direction in recent days” but “we may not succeed” in reaching a deal.

  • Abe Hawken

    'PROGRESSING WELL'

    There was better news in the UK’s negotiations for a trade deal with Canada as Downing Street said talks were at an “advanced stage” and “progressing well”.

    The EU has a deal with Canada and the UK is seeking to continue similar arrangements from January 1.

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week suggested the two sides were struggling to reach an agreement because British negotiators were out of practice, but Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said talks were progressing.

    He said: “We are committed to securing a continuity trade deal with Canada before the end of the transition period.”

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    LAWMAKERS TO BUTTRESS POST-BREXIT BRITAIN AS A FINANCIAL CENTRE

    Britain's lawmakers launched an inquiry on Friday aimed at ensuring its financial services remain globally competitive after the country's full departure from the European Union next month.

    “We'll make a series of recommendations for how the government, public bodies and the sector itself can ensure that the UK remains a premier financial centre,” said Mel Stride, chair of parliament's Treasury Select Committee.

    Britain left the EU last January and full access to the bloc under transition arrangements ends on Dec. 31, with 7,500 jobs and assets worth around a trillion pounds having already left the City of London for new EU financial hubs.

    The inquiry will build on reforms already outlined by Britain's finance minister Rishi Sunak last week that include making UK listings rules more attractive, amending insurance capital rules, and a sales tax break worth 800 million pounds on financial exports to the EU.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    BREXIT BREAKDOWN

    Face to face Brexit talks were SUSPENDED at the 11th hour today – throwing hopes for a quick fire trade deal into jeopardy. 

    Brussels' chief negotiator announced high-level meetings have been pulled because one of his top team has tested positive for the virus. 

    But both sides are expected to continue to hold talks online as they race against the clock to get an agreement over the line. 

    It's not yet clear if one or both chief negotiators will have to go into isolation.

    The Frenchman and Lord Frost both had the virus back in March. 

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    CONTINUED

    Greenland left the EU after voting to Grexit in 1982.

    The island, an autonomous Danish-dependent territory, trades with the EU as an Overseas Country Territory.

    When Brexit transition ends on December 31, trade with Britain will be subject to WTO tariffs.

    A cross-party set of MPs has set up a group in the hope of securing a separate arrangement.

    Dr Dwayne Ryan Menezes, of the Polar Research and Policy Initiative, has written to Boris Johnson, warning: “Disruption to trade will threaten jobs.”

    More on the story here.

  • Niamh Cavanagh

    RECAP – MUM'S GONE TO… GREENLAND

    Chippies face a major fish shortage unless the UK secures a Brexit deal with Greenland.

    Some 2,000 UK jobs could go if supply lines to top quality Arctic fish are disrupted.

    Andrew Crook, of the National Federation of Fish Friers, said a deal with Greenland was vital to stop other countries “having us over a barrel on prices”.

    He added: “The British fleet cannot be expected to catch all the fish we need. Greenland’s fish is a premium product and supplies some ten per cent of fish to the south of England. We must not let a deal slip through the net.”

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