Darren Adam 1am - 4am
Within reach: UK and EU edge towards Brexit deal
21 October 2020, 22:12
Negotiations between the UK and EU have reignited after concerns this week that the country could crash out of the bloc without a trade deal.
Downing Street confirmed on Wednesday that it will reopen talks just days after negotiations stalled, with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart Lord David Frost agreeing a set of principles for an "intensified phase of talks" starting on Thursday.
Officials previously said there was "no point" in more talks if Brussels didn't change its position, but said the UK will welcome the EU team to London this week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously issued his strongest indication yet that he had shelved plans for further negotiations after Lord Frost last week told Mr Barnier not to come to London for planned talks without a major change in position from EU leaders.
On Friday last week, he signalled the EU was unwilling to agree to a deal with the UK, accusing European leaders of having "abandoned the idea of a free trade deal".
Announcing the new round of talks No10 acknowledged, however, that "significant gaps" remain between the two sides and it was "entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed".
Mr Barnier said talks with the UK could continue "day and night" to reach an agreement - but also warned that preparations must be made for a no-deal scenario.
Trade talks are currently stalled and time is short to reach an agreement before the end of the transition period on 31 December.
He told the European Parliament: "Our door remains open, it will remain open right up until the last day when we can work together."
Meanwhile, officials in Northern Ireland have said that Irish Sea checks should be "operationally effective" by the New Year.
The physical facilities, however, will not be finished, it is understood.
Additional checks on animal-based products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain are required under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Treaty.
Officials have already warned that new buildings and infrastructure would be required to conduct the monitoring at ports and airports - contrary to what the Prime Minister said during his election campaign in 2019.
On Wednesday, German MEP Terry Reintke accused Mr Johnson of "lying to the people of the UK" over Brexit and told the European Parliament that he should "stop blaming others for his actions".
It remains unclear whether the two sides will be able to reach a deal before the deadline, but the next round of negotiations are set to define whether or not the UK leaves the EU with or without a trading relationship.
Just for the record:— Terry Reintke (@TerryReintke) October 21, 2020
I might be elected in Germany. But I have always understood myself as a European MEP.
And will continue to do so. https://t.co/Z8f9HW3mwK