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Despite progress being made during intensive talks between UK and EU negotiators over the past few weeks, significant gaps still remain, predominantly over fisheries, state aid and the EU’s so-called level playing field. On Sunday, Lord Frost arrived in Brussels before yet another round of negotiations with the EU and the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier. He tweeted: “Arriving once again in Brussels shortly for another round of negotiations with EU and Michel Barnier this afternoon. I and our British team have been in talks almost every day since 22 October.
“We are working to get a deal, but the only one that’s possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade, and our waters.
“That has been our consistent position from the start and I will not be changing it.
“There has been some progress in a positive direction in recent days. We also now largely have common draft treaty texts, though significant elements are of course not yet agreed.
“We will work to build on these and get an overall agreement if we can.
Why are you still negotiating if the significant elements have yet to be agreed?
“But we may not succeed. Either way, as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson made clear on 16 October, people and businesses must prepare for the change that is coming on 31 December, most of which happens whether there is a deal or not.”
However, the comments from the UK’s chief negotiator stating Britain and EU “now largely have common draft treaty texts, though significant elements are of course not yet agreed”, sparked a furious reaction from the former Brexit Party MEP.
Mr Habib tweeted: “Why are you still negotiating if the significant elements have yet to be agreed?
“Boris Johnson and you were clear on 15 Oct that there would be no negotiations until the EU relented in its position on state aid and fishing. So what are you negotiating?
Mr Habib added: “Somehow in the haze of a failure to agree the key points you have agreed the draft text of a new treaty? These things do not happen overnight.
“These contradictory indications point to a bad deal. Is it a good deal David Frost?”
The outburst came after Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned the EU will not agree to a trade deal if Boris Johnson continues to push ahead with his Government’s controversial Internal Market Bill.
Downing Street has insisted it will press ahead with elements of the proposed legislation that would allow the Government to break international law – despite peers in the House of Lords voting against them last Monday.
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Mr Coveney told Sky News: “Even if we do get a new trade deal negotiated by both sides, if the British Government is determined to continue with their Internal Market Bill – to reintroduce parts of that Bill that were removed by the House of Lords this week – then, I think this is a deal that won’t be ratified by the EU.
“Because there is no way the EU will agree to ratify a new agreement if the British Government is breaking the existing agreement that is not even 12 months old and breaking international law by doing that.”
He said a trade deal between the UK and EU can still be agreed, adding: “I think I would sum it up by saying this is very difficult but it’s also very doable.
“And I think the consequences of not getting a trade deal and a future relationship deal before the end of the year, I think is very significant.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice had earlier warned next week is “a week when things need to move” if the UK and EU are to agree a trade deal.
He said: “Both sides recognise that time is very, very short. It’s not long ago we were saying we needed to get some kind of conclusion by the middle of October,” he said.
“People have persevered with these talks. There does come a point frankly where businesses need to know what they are preparing for.
“You can always squeeze out extra time if you need to, if you’re nearly there.
“But, I agree with Simon Coveney, perhaps we can agree on this much… this needs to be a week when things move, when we break through some of these difficult issues and get resolution and at least have some sort of headlines – if you like – of an agreement.
“Otherwise, it gets quite difficult and we do start to run out of time to implement it.”
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