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The Prime Minister has said he is “incredibly confident that the UK will thrive with or without a free trade agreement with the EU” as the end of the transition period draws closer. The talks between the UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost and his European counterpart Michel Barnier have continued this week in Brussels.
Both teams have locked horns as the sticking points centre around fishing rights, how any deal would be governed and the “level playing field” measures on competition such as workers’ rights, environmental protections or by boosting state subsidies.
UK sources close to negotiations told Express.co.uk today’s talks were bitter but optimistic about stretching towards an agreement.
A Whitehall source close to the negotiations told Express.co.uk EU officials including Mr Barnier seemed to be under significant pressure.
They added: “It’s been very intense today, the EU team appear to have been dripping with sweat, the pressure is getting to them of our determination to secure a deal which will not undermine UK sovereignty.”
Express.co.uk understands a deal could be secured as early as next week with EU officials examining ways to ensure that any agreement reached next week or in the beginning of December would be approved in time.
Internal notes suggest December 10th is set to be the deadline for the 27 EU states to formally request parliamentary approval after they have endorsed any deal reached by Mr Barnier and Lord Frost.
Should it lapse, EU officials are already looking at alternatives which might require calling an additional, emergency plenary sitting in late December.
With the time now “very short”, the Prime Minister has warned the Cabinet securing a post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels is “far from certain” as “significant issues” still need resolving.
Mr Johnson pledged he is “keen” to secure a deal but warned he will not be compromising on “core principles”.
The EU has warned there might not be enough time even if an agreement is reached as it needs to be ratified by both parties before the transition period ends on 31 December.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told Express.co.uk this afternoon: “The PM said that his position hasn’t changed: the UK is keen to secure a deal with the EU, but not at the cost of our core principles around sovereignty and control over our laws, borders, money – and our fish.
“Significant issues remain, particularly on the so-called level playing field and fisheries.
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“We are working hard to find solutions which fully respect UK sovereignty, but it is far from certain that an agreement will prove possible and time is now very short.
“The PM said that, if we cannot find suitable compromises with our European friends, we will leave the transition period on Australia terms on January 1.
“The PM said he was incredibly confident that the UK will thrive with or without a free trade agreement with the EU.”
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