The spokesman said “time is in very short supply and we are at a very difficult point in the talks”, before adding: “What is certain is that we will not be able to agree a deal which doesn’t respect our fundamental principles on sovereignty and taking back control.”
It comes after an EU official said on Friday that a trade deal was “imminent” and could be expected this weekend despite reports that both sides were appearing to harden their stance after negotiations went on until 11pm on Thursday.
As wary France threatened to veto a bad deal, European Council president Charles Michel said the UK had “choices to make” over the final stalling points, while British ministers again insisted the EU must recognise UK’s sovereignty.
Meanwhile, with just days left to secure a deal and tensions already high in Brussels, Mr Johnson’s government announced it will bring two bills in possible violation of the Brexit withdrawal agreement before the Commons next week, which it claims is necessary to prevent a border in the Irish Sea. Michel Barnier has reportedly told EU envoys such a breach of trust would plunge the talks into irreparable “crisis”.
Irish premier ‘fervently’ hopes for trade deal
Irish premier Micheal Martin said he “fervently” hopes there will be a trade deal reached between the UK and EU.
He added: “There has been intensive talks under way and ongoing between the United Kingdom government’s negotiating team and the EU’s negotiating team, and that is continuing.
“My understanding and sense is that will continue over the weekend and there will be further engagement.
“I fervently hope there will be a deal. I think a deal is in the best interests of the United Kingdom, it’s in the best interests of the island of Ireland, it’s in the best interests of the EU.
“Particularly in the people we represent, workers, businesses, people involved in education across the broad. We need to give people certainty about the future.”
Chiara Giordano4 December 2020 18:01
Odds of Britain leaving EU without trade agreement
After business secretary Alok Sharma today admitted Brexit discussions have run into a “difficult phase” due to some “tricky issues”, my colleague Joe Sommerlad has taken a look at what the odds are of Britain leaving the EU without a trade agreement in this piece:
Chiara Giordano4 December 2020 17:36
Government slammed for ‘inappropriate’ vaccine nationalism comments
Ministers have been accused of making “wildly inappropriate comments” about the “brilliance” of Britain in approving the first Covid-19 that risk adding to vaccine hesitancy among the public.
Independent Sage also criticised the government for “snatching chaos from the jaws of sanity” with distracting rows over erroneous claims that Brexit allowed for UK regulators to approve the Pfizer/BionNTech vaccine more rapidly.
In a briefing on Friday, the group – set up to shadow the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) – urged for greater transparency and a public health campaign from the government to combat “vaccine hesitancy” and questions over the rollout.
Our political correspondent, Ashley Cowburn, has the full story:
Sam Hancock4 December 2020 16:58
Brexit talks reportedly end for the day with little progress made
Brexit trade talks are thought to be ending on Friday without the predicted breakthrough, and may not resume until Sunday morning, the Telegraph is reporting.
Downing Street declined to comment on whether Monday was regarded as a “hard deadline”, only saying that time was “short”, the paper said.
When approached by The Independent to verify these claims, a No 10 press officer said they could not give specifics on timings as talks were “live” and “ongoing”.
“These are live negotiations, so I can’t give an update on what is happening over the weekend – that is contingent on the progress of the talks today,” a spokesman for Boris Johnson said earlier on Friday.
He added: “There are still some issues to overcome. Time is in very short supply and we are at a very difficult point in the talks.”
Sam Hancock4 December 2020 16:55
Nearly 400,000 small businesses risk closure in winter, figures show
More than a third of a million small businesses may not survive through the winter, Labour has warned, following an analysis of figures by the party’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband.
The review suggested as many as 390,000 small businesses are worried that they will not make it to the spring because of losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown restrictions. And around 1 million do not have cash reserves to last beyond three months, with some 16 per cent of the total saying that they have no reserves left at all.
More than 520,000 small businesses had seen turnover plummet by more than half even before the second England-wide lockdown began in November.
Our political editor, Andrew Woodcock, reports:
Sam Hancock4 December 2020 16:22
‘Every country has right to veto’ Brexit deal, says French minister
France’s secretary of state for European affairs has said that the risk of a no-deal Brexit “exists”, and the country “must prepare for it”.
Clément Beaune told a French radio station on Friday that “if there was an agreement that was not good, we would oppose it”.
France has threatened to veto the post-Brexit trade deal, which London and Brussels are working hard to conclude in the coming days.
Mr Beaune warned that “every country has the right [to] veto”.
“We owe it to the French, we owe it to our fishermen and to other economic sectors,” he said.
Sam Hancock4 December 2020 15:42
Germany ready for Brexit deal ‘but not at any price’
The German government said on Friday that the EU wanted to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain, “but not at any price”.
“We know time is running out,” Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters. “The EU is ready to reach an agreement with Great Britain, but not at any price.”
“Everyone has their principles, it’s clear that there are red lines, yet there is always room for compromise,” he said.
Sam Hancock4 December 2020 14:59
Now seems an appropriate time to read up on what no deal means for the UK.
Here’s an extensive explainer by Jon Sharman:
Sam Hancock4 December 2020 14:15
Talks at ‘very difficult point’, No 10 admits
Our policy correspondent, Jon Stone, reports the following:
There may be positive noises coming from the EU side about “imminent” deals, but No 10 isn’t quite ready to break out the champagne just yet.
A Downing Street spokesman said talks were at “a very difficult point”, noting that they had ended at 11pm on Thursday evening and were continuing today.
Whether negotiations would carry on through the weekend would be “contingent on the progress of talks today”, he said.
The spokesman said: “There are still some issues to overcome. Time is in very short supply and we are at a very difficult point in the talks.
“What is certain is that we will not be able to agree a deal which doesn’t respect our fundamental principles on sovereignty and taking back control.
“The prime minister has been clear we will continue to work hard to reach an agreement on the basis we have set out. An agreement on any other basis is not possible.”
Mr Johnson will be working at Chequers over the weekend and will be kept up to date on progress in talks, said the spokesman.
Sam Hancock4 December 2020 13:36
EU ready for ‘all Brexit options’, says Charles Michel
The EU “wants a deal” but is ready for “all options” as Brexit talks go to the wire, according to president of the European Council Charles Michel.
“Our position is crystal clear – we want a deal,” he told reporters today, “which is why we have tried since the very beginning to be a loyal partner in the framework of this difficult but important negotiation.”
Mr Michel said he would not be making “any predictions” about the outcome of ongoing talks between the UK and EU, though he did say “we are ready for all the possible options” – signalling that the EU is clearly prepared should a deal not be agreed on both sides.
EU remain ready for ‘all options’ in Brexit talks, says Charles Michel
Sam Hancock4 December 2020 13:19