UK-EU talks continue but little hope of breakthrough this week
Post-Brexit trade deal talks between the UK and the European Union (EU) are not expected to end with an agreement this week.
The EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier has been in London for talks which are set to continue on Thursday.
Officials on both sides are pessimistic about a deal being reached this week, with time running out for an agreement to be in place by the time the UK’s transitional arrangements expire at the end of the year.
In Westminster, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Time is in short supply and for our part we continue to work very hard to seek to bridge the gaps which remain between our two positions.”
Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney said he expected talks would continue next week, but neither the UK or EU sides have said this to be true.
One EU source said “next week is a year away in Brexit world” while British officials acknowledged a deal was not expected this week.
The EU wants a deal by mid-November in order for it to be ratified by the time the transition arrangements expire and the UK leaves the customs union and single market.
Mr Coveney told an online event organised by the European Movement: “I think it is quite possible that this could fall apart and we don’t get a deal, that wouldn’t shock me at all.
“But if you are asking me to call it, I think we are more likely to get a deal than not, but I think it’s unlikely this week – hopefully I’ll be proven wrong – I think it’s likely to move into next week.
“But at that point the timelines start to get very tight.”
Mr Coveney said the coming days were “crucial” and “if we don’t have a deal at some point next week I think we have real problems”.
The main stumbling blocks are thought to remain the “level playing field” measures aimed at preventing unfair competition on issues including state subsidies, the ongoing row over fishing rights and how any UK-EU deal will be governed.