European Union says Brexit deal still 'metres from the finish line'

EU makes final push to reach an agreement with the UK

EU makes final push to reach an agreement with the UK

Barnier will now self-quarantine for ten days in line with Belgian law following the team member's test result.

She said that progress had been made across the whole deal, which is said to be about 95 percent agreed, but warned that crucial breakthroughs on fishing, the level playing field guarantees and the deal's enforcement remained elusive.

"We are both close and far away".

Progress is said to be being made "very, very slowly" on those two issues but "fisheries are not really moving anywhere right now".

France, the Netherlands and Belgium are all pushing European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to set out the EU's worst case scenario plans so businesses have a "safety net" and can start to prepare just in case trade talks fall apart.

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is said to be reluctant to publish the plans because of fears it could give Boris Johnson and the United Kingdom the upper hand in trade talks.

'It seems that we are very close to agreement on most issues but differences on the three contentious issues persist'.

Almost five years since the Brexit referendum campaign began, Britain and the European Union have still not worked out how nearly $1 billion in trade per year will operate once Britain leaves a status quo transition arrangement on 31 December.

UK's Johnson stands by minister found to have bullied staff
Earlier this week the former head of the civil service Lord Sedwill told MPs the investigation was now "with" the prime minister. The inquiry was launched after Home Office chief Philip Rutnam, who is suing for constructive dismissal, resigned in February.

Although both sides have indicated that progress has been made in recent days, long-standing differences on the access of European fishing fleets to United Kingdom waters, common regulatory standards, known as the "level playing field" and dispute settlement remain, and compromises are unlikely to be found until the eleventh hour.

Mr Barnier tweeted: 'Update: one of the negotiators in my team has tested positive for COVID-19.

"The teams will continue their work in full respect of guidelines", he said.

The two sides have been engaged in intensified talks in recent weeks, with negotiating rounds alternating between London and Brussels.

The source said Mr Barnier and Lord Frost are not yet ready to call in political leaders to broker a final compromise.

Over the past few months, the talks have failed to make much headway on some key issues, notably over fishing rights, business regulations and state aid.

However, a trade deal needs to be sorted out soon given that the EU will need about 4 weeks to vet, translate any agreement into all languages and get the necessary approvals from member states and the European parliament.

To guard against any failure to get a deal, France and Belgium, two close neighbors of Britain, asked an European Union summit Thursday to speed up preparations for a no-deal scenario on January 1 when the sudden change of the end of a transition period without a trade deal could cause immediate disruptions in commerce and chaos at borders.

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