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Downing Street Says Time To Strike A Brexit Deal Is In "Very Short Supply" As Talks Hit "Very Difficult Point"

Downing Street have admitted the talks have stalled

3 min read

Number 10 has warned Brexit negotiations have hit a "very difficult point" as the clock ticks on a further day of "intensive" talks.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, had been due to return to Brussels earlier today, but has chosen to remain in London to try and thrash out a Brexit deal despite a stalemate over fishing rights and so-called level playing field rules.

Talks between the two sides continued until after 11pm on Thursday night, but appeared to run into difficulties with a British offical reportedly claiming the bloc had introduced "new elements into the negotiations".

While there are still three weeks until the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December, a deal needs to be struck this weekend ahead of the Internal Market Bill's return to the Commons, the publication of the finance bill and meeting of the EU council, all of which take place next week. 

But speaking on Friday, a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said talks had reached a "very difficult point".

"We are committed to working hard to try and reach an agreement with the EU and talks are ongoing," they said.

"Time is in short supply, we're at a very difficult point. Teams are working intensively to try and bridge the gaps that remain."

"What is certain is that we will not be able to agree a deal that doesn’t respect our fundamental principles on sovereignty and taking back control."

The spokesperson added that talks could continue over the weekend, but that further negotiations were "contingent" on progress being made today.

Both sides have remained deadlocked for months over fishing rights and level playing field rules aimed at preventing businesses in one country gaining a competitive advantage.

Any deal struck between the two sides would still require the approval of all 27 EU national parliaments, but a senior French minister has today warned they could veto the agreement if it was not in their interests.

Speaking on Friday, France's Europe minister, Clement Beaune, said: "This [no deal] risk exists. We mustn’t hide it because there are businesses, our fishermen, citizens who need to know and so we must prepare for a risk of no deal.

"That's to say on 31 December there will be no more free circulation, and free access to the UK market and vice versa.

"But it’s not what we want and the negotiations are still going on with Michel Barnier, who is in London at the moment. I still hope we can have a deal but I also say to our fishermen, to our producers, to our citizens, that we won’t accept a bad deal."

He added: "Yes, each country has a veto, so it's possible. France like all its partners has the means of a veto. We must make our own evaluation of course of this deal, that’s normal. We owe that to the French people, we owe it to our fishermen, and to other economic sectors.

"I want to believe we will have a good deal, but to get a good deal you know it's better to be frank, and to say our interests We have been very clear, sometimes the Brits a little less so, about our interests."

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