Brexit: UK-EU talks resume in final push for trade deal

Lord Frost

 Talks between the UK and EU have resumed, as the two sides make a final bid to reach a post-Brexit trade deal.

Disputes over fishing and business competition rules are still going on, but the UK government said there was "still time to reach an agreement".

The EU mood was described as "downbeat" as chief negotiator Michel Barnier met UK counterpart Lord Frost.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen later.

The European Commission said the conversation was due at 1600 GMT.

If no deal is done by the end of the year, the UK and EU will introduce tariffs and border checks on goods.

The government faces an urgent question from Labour in the House of Commons later on how the talks are going.

Early on Monday morning, Mr Barnier briefed EU ambassadors that "divergences" remained over fishing rights and business rules.

The EU says that, without ongoing access to UK waters for its fleets, UK fishermen will no longer have special access to EU markets to sell their goods.

But the UK argues that what goes on in its own waters should be under its control as a sovereign country.

The UK and EU are also at loggerheads over the so-called "level playing field" - a set of shared rules and standards to ensure businesses in one country do not have an unfair advantage over their competitors in others.

Brussels wants the UK to adhere to EU rules on workers' rights, environmental regulations and state aid, but the UK says the goal of Brexit is to break free from following common rules and reassert national sovereignty.

And the two sides disagree on how any future trading disputes should be resolved.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the BBC there had been "no progress at all" in talks on Sunday, adding that Mr Barnier's assessment was currently "downbeat".

But Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly told BBC Breakfast the UK would keep negotiating "for as long as we have available time or until we get an agreement".

If the EU and UK reach a deal, it will have to be turned into legal text and translated into all EU languages, then ratified by the European Parliament before 31 December.

The UK government is likely to introduce legislation implementing parts of any deal reached, which MPs would vote on.

The 27 EU national parliaments may also need to ratify an agreement, depending on the contents of the deal.

Big week ahead

Later on Monday, the UK Internal Market Bill will return to the House of Commons.

Certain clauses could allow the government to break international law, by overriding elements of its original Brexit treaty with the EU, known as the withdrawal agreement.

The EU is unhappy with those clauses, as is the House of Lords, which voted to scrap them.

But the government is still backing its measures - which could cause tensions in the trade talks - and is expected to push them through the Commons on Monday evening.

The Taxation (Post-Transition Period) Bill, which contains more powers to break the legal requirements of the withdrawal agreement, will also return to the Commons this week.

And on Thursday, EU leaders will meet in Brussels for a two-day summit where they could sign off a deal, if the two sides can reach an agreement by then. 

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