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Brexit

EU’s Barnier: Good progress in negotiations with UK but obstacles remain

Lorries queue for the Port of Dover along the A20 in Kent as the Dover TAP (Traffic Access Protocol) is implemented due to high volumes of freight traffic while the clock ticks down on the chance for the UK to strike a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31. Pic by Gareth Fuller

By David Hughes, PA Political Editor

There has been “good progress” in talks on a post-Brexit trade deal but the “last stumbling blocks remain”, Michel Barnier said.

The European Union’s lead negotiator has been holding talks with the UK team led by Lord Frost in an effort to reach a late deal before the current arrangements expire at the end of the year.

Mr Barnier briefed European Parliament leaders about the state of the talks, which he said were in the “final stretch”.

He said: “We will only sign a deal protecting EU interests and principles.”

The talks were given the green light to continue on Sunday following a meeting between Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

But time is running short for a deal to be reached by negotiators, backed by national leaders and then approved by MPs and MEPs.

The House of Commons rises for Christmas at the close of Thursday’s business but MPs have been put on standby to be recalled if a trade deal is secured.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove told MPs: “Intensive talks are ongoing with both negotiating teams working day and night to reach a deal.

“We’re going the extra mile in continuing the negotiations to see whether or not an agreement can be reached and we will continue to keep Parliament informed on our progress.”

He added: “Even if sometimes results are coming later than we might have wanted, I know we will be doing everything in order to secure a good free trade agreement in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.”

Mr Gove said if there is a deal “we will request that the House returns in order to make sure that we can legislate effectively, and we believe we can pass the necessary legislation before December 31 to give businesses legal certainty for the future”.