Brexit latest: What is happening with Brexit right now? Can a deal be ratified in time?
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Brexit negotiations are in the final days with the European Union and UK endeavouring to agree a post-Brexit trade deal before the agreed transition period comes to an end. The European Commission President and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tonight spoke about the state of play. But where are negotiations and can a deal be ratified in time if it is agreed this week?
The PM told the EU chief Brexit trade talks are now in a “serious situation”.
He added a no-deal outcome is “very likely” unless the EU changes its stance “substantially”.
Mrs von der Leyen said “big differences remain to be bridged”, adding she welcomed “substantial progress on many issues”.
She added talks between the bloc and the UK would continue, but warned it will be “very challenging” for both sides to reach an agreement.
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The phone call between Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen came after Cabinet minister Michael Gove informed peers trade talks “may go on until after Christmas”.
He said chances of agreeing a deal by Sunday is less than 50 percent.
Speaking to the House of Commons’ Brexit Committee Mr Gove said: “I think, regrettably, the chances are more likely that we won’t secure an agreement.”
He added: “The process of negotiation has managed to narrow down areas of difference.
“It is certainly the case that there are fewer areas of difference now than there were in October or indeed July.”
Downing Street warned there is “little time” to forge a Brexit trade deal, claiming Brussels’ demands on fisheries are “simply not reasonable”.
Fisheries remain a thorny issue between the UK and the EU.
The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) means the fishing fleets of all UK and EU countries have full access to each other’s waters, except for 12 nautical miles out from the coast.
A Downing Street spokesman told the Telegraph: “The Prime Minister spoke to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this evening about the state of play in the UK / EU negotiations.
“The Prime Minister underlined that the negotiations were now in a serious situation.
“Time was very short and it now looked very likely that agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially.
“He said that we were making every effort to accommodate reasonable EU requests on the level playing field, but even though the gap had narrowed some fundamental areas remained difficult.
“On fisheries, he stressed that the UK could not accept a situation where it was the only sovereign country in the world not to be able to control access to its own waters for an extended period and to be faced with fisheries quotas which hugely disadvantaged its own industry.
“The EU’s position in this area was simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly.
“The Prime Minister repeated that little time was left. He said that, if no agreement could be reached, the UK and the EU would part as friends, with the UK trading with the EU on Australian-style terms.
“The leaders agreed to remain in close contact.”
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Today MPs were sent home from parliament for the Christmas holidays.
They are not due to return to Westminster until January 5.
However, Downing Street has said it could recall parliament from its Christmas recess as early as next week, should a trade deal be reached.
British MPs and peers were earlier warned they may be asked to sit on December 21, 22 and 23, with Thursday, December 24.
Can a Brexit trade deal be agreed and ratified before the transition period ends?
Many politicians including the PM and Mr Gove have been keen to stress the increasing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit.
MEPs have said an agreement must be struck by Sunday night or they will refuse to ratify it before transition ends.
Leader of centre-Right European People’s Party Manfred Weber said: “We should only approve a Brexit agreement if we get it until this Sunday.
“After that, we cannot reasonably scrutinise the deal before the end of the year.
“The agreement is too important to rush through Parliament.”
The leader of the Renew Europe group Dacian Ciolos echoed this sentiment.
He said: “We give until Sunday to Boris Johnson to make a decision.
“The uncertainty hanging over citizens & businesses as a result of UK choices becomes intolerable.”
A trade deal between the UK and EU must be agreed and approved by both the UK and EU parliament for it to be effective come January 1.
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