Signs Brexit deal still possible – but differences on fisheries ‘remain difficult to bridge’


Signs have emerged a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU is still possible – with just nine days to go until the deadline.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen held a secret call on Monday evening, according to Reuters.

The news agency cited sources who said the two leaders talked about fishing – one of the key remaining stumbling blocks to an agreement – and the coronavirus crisis.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - JANUARY 17:  The national flag of the United Kingdom, the Union Jack, and the EU flag are pictured in the European Council headquarters in Brussels, on January 17, 2020. On January 31, the Brexit should be acted, and the Union Flag, the national flag of the United Kingdom, should be removed. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
The post-Brexit transition period ends on 31 December

It added Brussels now appeared willing to accept a reduction in the value of its catch in UK waters of up to 25%
over a period of time from 2021.

Downing Street is not denying the phone call between Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen took place but pointed to commitments made previously that they would stay in touch during negotiations.

In a sign of some potential movement, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is also due to update the 27 member states’ ambassadors at 3pm GMT.

In mid-December, both sides were loudly talking up the prospect of no-deal.

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But after yet more deadlines passed that they said were the points a deal needed to be reached by, public statements from Number 10 and the Berlaymont (the European Commission headquarters) have gone much quieter.

Michel Barnier met with David Frost in Brussels on Sunday
Michel Barnier is set to brief ambassadors on Tuesday afternoon

More speculation a deal could be clinched was boosted by a former Number 10 special adviser on Brexit who wrote an article for Politico laying out how a compromise could be reached on fish in time.

There is just over a week to go until the end of the transition period – the arrangement the UK entered into once it left the EU on 31 January.

Since then, the country has continued to follow most of the bloc’s rules while negotiators try to hammer out an agreement.

Talks appear to be going down to the wire, and with parliament broken up for the Christmas holidays Sky News has been told it could be recalled on 30 December to approve any last-minute agreement.

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