Farage highlights ‘very bad sign for Brexit’ after Barnier celebrates ‘good new agreement’

Brexit: Nigel Farage outlines Johnson's 'fundamental mistake'

Several elements are being discussed between the two negotiating teams in Brussels, with fisheries and the EU’s level playing field continuing to be major stumbling blocks, but one element they have seemingly agreed on is public procurement. Brussels reporter Nick Gutteridge tweeted: “The two sides have wrapped up negotiations on public procurement. The UK will give European companies bidding for public sector contracts ‘equal treatment’ to British ones and vice-versa, Michel Barnier briefed MEPs. He called it ‘a very good agreement’.

“Throughout the talks, the UK had been insisting the public procurement provisions should be based on WTO rules, but it has shifted that stance late in the day.

“The UK sought generous terms in this area with Japan and is doing so in talks with the US, Australia, and New Zealand.

“EU figures estimate public sector spending makes up about 15 percent of GDP in most developed economies, so this is a really important issue for both sides.

“European firms have huge financial interests in the UK – from running rail franchises to making the new blue passports.

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“The UK side said it wouldn’t comment on the ongoing negotiations. But this is a further sign of how lots of little remaining pieces of the jigsaw are slotting into place now the talks are in their endgame.

“If/when things move towards a deal, they could do so very quickly.”

But in a sharp response to the agreement between the UK and EU on public procurement, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage warned in a tweet: “Another very bad sign for Brexit.”

British and EU negotiators remain locked in talks in Brussels over a post-Brexit trade deal in a last-ditch attempt to get an agreement over the line before the transition period deadline expires on December 31.

Time is running out to get a deal over the line, with any agreement needing to be ratified by both the UK and EU Parliaments within the next two weeks.

Failure to do so would see Britain severing all ties with the EU from January 1 and trading on terms set by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – with huge tariffs being added to imports and exports on both sides.

Earlier on Thursday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Mr Barnier insisted good progress had been made in trade talks with the UK over recent days.

He said negotiations are in the “final stretch” and that there was “good progress, but last stumbling blocks remain”.

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Mr Barnier tweeted: “In this final stretch of talks, transparency & unity are important as ever: Debriefed Europarl-EN Conference of Presidents this morning on negotiations.

“Good progress, but last stumbling blocks remain.

“We will only sign a deal protecting EU interests & principles.”

But Downing Street was less optimistic, with Boris Johnson’s spokesman insisting UK negotiators remain in Brussels to “work to bridge the gaps that remain”, warning a no-deal with the EU is the most likely outcome.

Negotiators worked late into the night on Wednesday and resumed talks on Thursday morning.

The spokesman said: “They remain there to work to bridge the gaps that remain.

“An Australia, WTO (World Trade Organization) exit remains the most likely outcome which is why we are planning for that eventuality but we remain committed to trying to reach an FTA (free trade agreement) if possible.”

Australia does not currently have a trade agreement with the EU in place, with the majority of trade between the two under rules set by the WTO.

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