David Frost arrives in Brussels for last ditch Brexit talks

5 December 2020, 18:11 | Updated: 6 December 2020, 14:44

Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The UK's chief negotiator David Frost has arrived in Brussels for last-ditch Brexit talks, saying he is "looking forward to meeting European colleagues later on."

The UK and EU will return to the negotiating table today in a "final throw of the dice" as they try to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed that a "further effort" should be made to come to an agreement the level playing field, governance and fisheries.

Ahead of the meeting however, British sources warned there was no guarantee they would succeed.

"This is the final throw of the dice," said one UK source close to the negotiations.

"There is a fair deal to be done that works for both sides, but this will only happen if the EU is willing to respect the fundamental principles of sovereignty and control."

Speaking on Swarbrick on Sunday, Environment Secretary George Eustice said the transition period will not be extended, but negotiations could be.

"No, the transition period will not be extended. The point that I made is that the next 72 hours are pretty critical," Mr Eustice explained.

"However, if there's good will during those 72 hours and progress is being made then it might be that there is no cut off point on Wednesday.

"It may be that both sides agree that they're nearly there and so they decide to persevere for a few more days."

In a statement on Saturday evening, the EU boss said: "Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved.

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"We are therefore instructing our chief negotiators to reconvene tomorrow in Brussels.

"We will speak again on Monday evening."

Shortly after the statement, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted to confirm the teams will "see if there is a way forward" - which will require compromise on one or both sides.

Ireland's Taoiseach Micheal Martin welcomed the news, tweeting that an agreement "is in everyone's best interests".

"Every effort should be made to reach a deal," he added.

It comes after talks between the UK and the European Union were paused on Friday after the two teams failed to compromise on the three contentious issues.

Read more: Chances of post-Brexit trade deal with EU 'receding', UK warns

With time for an agreement rapidly running out, the two sides' chief negotiators announced on Friday talks would be put on "pause" in a bid to allow political leaders to take stock.

Yesterday Downing Street warned that trade talks are at a "very difficult point".

The UK on Friday accused the EU side of seeking to introduce "new elements" into the negotiations at the 11th hour.

The British side was angered by reported demands by Brussels that EU fishermen should continue to enjoy the same access to UK waters for another 10 years.

There was concern that Mr Barnier was coming under pressure from French President Emmanuel Macron at the head of a group of countries which feared he was giving too much ground to the UK.

Read more: Brexit trade talks at 'very difficult point', Downing Street warns

Watch: It would be inexplicable if a Brexit deal isn't reached - Hilary Benn

EU leaders are due to meet on Thursday for a two-day summit in Brussels - their last scheduled gathering of the year - when they could sign-off on any agreement.

Time then has to be found for both Houses of Parliament in the UK and the European parliament to ratify it before the transition period expires - although there have been suggestions that could slip on the EU side.

If there is no agreement, the UK will leave the single market and customs union on December 31 and begin trading with the bloc on World Trade Organisation terms, with the imposition of tariffs and quotas.