United Kingdom

EU leaders 'hopeful' of post-Brexit trade deal breakthrough

European leaders are now 'hopeful' the UK and the EU will be able to agree the outlines of a post-Brexit trade deal within the next week.  

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, is preparing to leave quarantine in Brussels to come to London for what could be a final round of talks with UK counterpart Lord Frost. 

Mr Barnier was forced to self-isolate last week after a member of his team tested positive for coronavirus, prompting top-level talks to be suspended. 

Negotiations have continued remotely but it is hoped a return to face-to-face talks later this week will help bring about a breakthrough on the remaining points of contention: Fishing rights and the so-called 'level playing field' on rules.

There is growing optimism on both sides that an accord is now in sight, with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin predicting a deal could come into view by the end of this week. 

Meanwhile, reports suggest a phone call or even a face-to-face meeting is being set up between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, to hammer out the final details of an agreement.

There is now growing optimism the UK and the EU will be able to strike a post-Brexit trade deal, with Boris Johnson widely expected to speak to Ursula von der Leyen later this week

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin has predicted a deal could come into view by the end of this week

Talks between Mr Barnier and Lord Frost are expected to last over the weekend amid hopes the stalemate will be broken on the crunch issue of fishing by early next week, according to The Times. 

The EU is facing massive time pressure to get the deal done as soon as possible so it can be ratified and implemented before the end of the 'standstill' transition period in December. 

Any deal must be approved by the European Parliament and before that can happen the legal text of the accord has to be translated into the EU's 24 official languages - an immensely time consuming process.      

It was originally thought Brussels would need six weeks to complete ratification and roll out but the continued deadlock in the talks means the bloc will have no choice but to expedite the process should a deal be agreed. 

Mr Martin struck an optimistic tone yesterday as he said: 'I would be hopeful that, by the end of this week, that we could see the outlines of a deal, but that remains to be seen. 

'It is down to political will, both in the United Kingdom and I'm clear the political will is there from the European Union.'

But Mr Barnier cautioned that 'time is short', adding: 'Fundamental divergences still remain, but we are continuing to work hard for a deal.' 

Failure to agree a trade deal will force the EU and the UK to trade on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms from January 1 and that will mean tariffs being imposed on goods. 

Michel Barnier is expected to travel to London later this week for what could be the final round of talks with UK counterpart Lord Frost

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said yesterday the long-term harm to the economy would be greater from a no deal Brexit than from the coronavirus crisis. 

Mr Bailey said the effects of crashing out of the EU on WTO terms would last for longer than the damage done by the global pandemic.

'I think the long-term effect would be larger than the long-term effect of Covid,' Mr Bailey told MPs on the Treasury Select Committee.

'The models would suggest that the effects of a WTO no-deal trade agreement are longer term. The reason for that is that it takes a lot longer period of time for the real economy to adjust.'  

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