Boris Johnson urges EU to ‘see sense’ as Michel Barnier warns of narrow path to deal


Boris Johnson has urged the EU to “see sense” and make Britain a better offer, as the bloc’s leading negotiator warned that trade talks had arrived at the “moment of truth”.

The Prime Minister said that the UK must be able to control its own laws and fishing rights to agree in any arrangement or else would “prosper mightily” on World Trade Organisation terms.

Mr Johnson said: “I have to say that things are looking difficult and there’s a gap that needs to be to be bridged.

“We’ve done a lot, I think, to try and help and we hope that our EU friends will will see sense and and come to the table with with something themselves.”

It comes after Michel Barnier told the European Parliament it is the “moment of truth” in Brexit trade talks, with “just a few hours” left to reach a deal. 

“It’s the moment of truth. We have very little time remaining, just a few hours to work through these negotiations in a useful fashion if we want this agreement to enter into force on the first of January,” he said. 

“There is a chance of getting an agreement but the path to such an agreement is very narrow.”

Mr Barnier doubled-down on Brussels’ demand to link a fisheries agreement to trade deal, giving the EU power to retaliate if EU fishermen are shut out of UK waters. 

If no deal is agreed before transition, he suggested that negotiations would continue after transition. “If it is not today, it will have to be later,” he said. 

​Follow the latest updates below.

04:07 PM

Taoiseach warns ‘very significant difficulties’ remain in Brexit talks

Micheal Martin said “very significant difficulties” remain in talks between the EU and UK, particularly in relation to fisheries.

The Taoiseach’s analysis came as leaders north and south of the Irish border voiced support for a trade deal.

The issue was discussed at Friday’s virtual meeting of the North South Ministerial Council.

Mr Martin said: “If we get a substantive future relationship agreement between the UK and the EU that would make life much, much easier for all of us and particularly would give certainty and clarity to businesses and for workers north and south.”

He said a deal would present opportunities for everyone on the island of Ireland.

“Above all, it would give certainty and clarity to businesses on the island of Ireland, for workers on the island of Ireland in terms of their future and without question a deal would reduce very significantly any damage and disruption that would clearly arise from a no deal,” he added.

03:59 PM

Negotiations back underway

Lord Frost has met with Michel Barnier at European Commission headquarters for talks at chief negotiator level, James Crisp reports.

It follows reports that Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen are due to speak in the next 48 hours in an attempt to move the dial on fisheries.

03:36 PM

Limiting Christmas to two households a ‘step in the right direction’, Sir Keir Starmer says

Sir Keir Starmer has said that limiting Christmas to mixing only between two households would be a “step in the right direction”.

The Labour leader told reporters: “He’s got to toughen up over Christmas, he’s got to show some leadership.

“Easing the restrictions I think is going to be the next big mistake for the Prime Minister.”

Pressed on what exactly he wants in terms of restrictions over the festive period, Sir Keir said: “In Wales, for example, they brought it down to two households, that seems a step in the right direction, might want to even talk about the numbers within the households.

“But what you can’t have is a Prime Minister who, as he’s done throughout this pandemic, he’s been too slow to act.”

03:32 PM

Northern Ireland’s spike in Covid a ‘failure of society’

The First Minister says that Norther Ireland’s spiralling infection rate is down to the “failure of society as a whole”.

Arlene Foster says: “We do find ourselves in a particularly bad place, I very much regret that that is the case and it’s a failure of society as a whole that we have had to introduce these restrictions in the draconian way that they are coming in on Boxing night.

“Last night we did take a very draconian decision, one which I never thought we would have to take. I very much regret the fact that we have had to take it, but we needed to take it and we’re facing a great deal of difficulty across Northern Ireland.”

She insists people need to take personal responsibility for their actions in the time ahead.

“We are facing very, very difficult times across Northern Ireland,” she adds.

03:16 PM

Sir Keir Starmer asks what PM is doing to prevent third lockdown

Sir Keir Starmer questions what Boris Johnson is doing to “prevent the chances of a third loackdown”.

The Labour leader says the tiered system “is not strong enough” and argues that Government communications on Christmas have been “all over the place”.

03:13 PM

Anti-lockdown protesters face committing criminal offence

Scotland Yard has issued an open letter urging people not to attend large gatherings over the last weekend before Christmas, amid fears of further anti-lockdown protests in the capital.

The force said extra officers will be on London’s streets to encourage compliance with strict Tier 3 Covid-19 regulations and to “swiftly clamp down on those wilfully and dangerously ignoring them”.

An anti-lockdown demonstration is expected in Parliament Square on Saturday, with others planned around the country.

An open letter published on the Metropolitan Police’s website asks people not to attend any large gathering and warns they may be at risk of committing a criminal offence if they do.

02:57 PM

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen to speak again?

It is expected that Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen will speak again in the next 48 hours, the Spectator reports.

The Prime Minister is reportedly looking for a sign that the EU is prepared to move on fish.

Last night the leaders held a “stock take” phone call to assess the state of negotiations.

02:38 PM

Guy Verhofstadt urges Michel Barnier to extend Erasmus to British students

The former chair of the Brexit Steering Group tells the EU’s chief negotiator to extend the Erasmus scheme to UK students.

He said: “They love Europe, they all want the UK back into the European family. Let’s not make them the victims of a Brexit they didn’t choose.”

02:26 PM

Dover traffic up by 40%, chief exec says

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister warned there is “significant uncertainty” around how prepared companies are for a no-deal Brexit, as he said traffic had increased by 40 per cent.

He said: “We are a fortnight away from this momentous transition and so everything is going to come right down to the wire.

“We are going through a really busy period of time right now with the Brexit stockpiling, the diversion of cargo from other ports coming in through our gateway, it is a really important period of time.

“Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been seeing increases of typically between 20 and 25 per cent over this time last year – but we have topped up some bigger numbers, yesterday we approached nearly 40 per cent.”

Lorries have been piling up at the Kent border - Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Lorries have been piling up at the Kent border – Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

02:02 PM

Third lockdown may be tougher than second, Neil Ferguson claims

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, has suggested a third national lockdown may need to be stricter than the second.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “The concern I have right now is that … (in) the East of England, for instance, case numbers were rising during the last lockdown, so there may be a need for additional controls beyond even what were in place then.”

01:48 PM

EU leaders will overrule European Parliament to ratify deal, sources suggest

Diplomatic sources have said that EU leaders will overrule the European Parliament if it refuses to ratify the Brexit trade agreement before the end of year no deal deadline, James Crisp reports.

Senior MEPs yesterday warned they would not vote on the UK-EU deal, unless it had the full text of the agreement by midnight on Sunday. 

But EU diplomats said their governments would step in to prevent a no deal on January 1, if an agreement was found on fishing and state subsidies before the end of the Brexit transition period. 

“December 31 is the final Brexit deadline,” a senior EU diplomat said. 

The House of Commons could agree to ratify the deal in just six days if necessary.MPs are on their Christmas holidays but could be recalled at short notice. 

Read more here.

01:32 PM

Boris Johnson: ‘I do own a hairbrush!’

Boris Johnson is used to brushing aside tough questions, but decided to reveal all about his hair regime in an interview today.

A reporter asked why the premier never appears to brush his hair – even when representing the country abroad.

“Your hair is always all over the place and she wants to know why,” the journalist said in the interview with Mr Johnson as he visited an Openzone training facility in Bolton.

The Prime Minister insisted: “I do! It’s something to do with my hair but I can tell you I do brush it – I have a brush in my office.

“And anyway, will you give your mother my very best for a very happy Christmas. And my apologies for my hair but I do my best with it.”

Boris Johnson has confirmed he does own a hair brush - REUTERS/Toby Melville/REUTERS/Toby Melville
Boris Johnson has confirmed he does own a hair brush – REUTERS/Toby Melville/REUTERS/Toby Melville

01:13 PM

Brexit Trade deal: What does no-deal actually mean?

For the past three-and-a-half years Britain has been trying to secure a trade deal with the European Union.

On Thursday, officials on both sides of the Channel privately admitted good progress had been made this week. 

But publicly, Boris Johnson warned European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that a deal was “drifting away from us”, unless the EU “substantially” changes its position, and that talks were in a “serious situation”.

So what would a no-deal practically mean? Watch below to find out.

12:57 PM

CBI warns of no-deal ‘cliff-edge’

Businesses have urged the Government to ease the effects of “cliff-edge” departure if no deal is brokered, including various grace periods for firms implementing new measures.

Confederation of British Industry director-general Tony Danker said: “There is no avoiding the urgent need for action, starting first and foremost with securing a deal.

“Firms have done so much to get ready for the changes ahead. But with less than a fortnight until January 1 to get ready, bold steps are needed to minimise disruption.”

12:34 PM

Boris Johnson fails to rule out third lockdown

The Prime Minister has not ruled out a third national lockdown amid rising rates of coronavirus, as health chiefs warn of the toll on frontline staff and services from festive mixing.

Mr Johnson said rates of infection have increased “very much in the last few weeks”, as pressure grows on the Government to do more to tackle the rise.

Northern Ireland and Wales are bracing for lockdowns in the days after Christmas.

Speaking during a visit to Greater Manchester Mr Johnson said: “We’re hoping very much that we will be able to avoid anything like that. But the reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks.”

12:30 PM

‘Don’t give in now, Boris’

Michel Barnier has insisted that Brexit trade talks are heading for a “moment of truth” ahead of Sunday’s new deadline.

Despite suggesting that that the possibility of a deal “is here”,  the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has warned that there is “very little time remaining, just a few hours.” 

But what do Telegraph readers think?

Some hope that the UK is “merely stringing the EU along”, while others have urged the Prime Minister not to “betray” the British people.

You can read more here.

12:23 PM

Boris Johnson urges Britons to ‘look after’ elderly relatives at Christmas

The Prime Minister has urged the public to avoid spreading coronavirus over Christmas.

He said: “What we’re saying to people now over this Christmas period is think of those rules about the three households that you can bubble up with, the five days. That is very much a maximum – that’s not a target people should aim for.

“I think people really get this, people do get this, all the evidence I’m seeing, people really understand this is the time to look after, to think about, our elderly relatives, avoid spreading the disease.

“Keep it short, keep it small, have yourselves a very little Christmas as I said the other night – that is, I’m afraid, the way through this year.

“Next year I have no doubt that as we roll out the vaccine and all the other things that we’re doing it will be very, very different indeed.”

12:12 PM

Boris Johnson says he hopes EU will ‘see sense’

The Prime Minister, who is visiting Openreach in Bolton, warns that negotiations with the EU remain “difficult”.

He says: “I have to say that things are looking difficult, and there’s a gap that needs to be to be bridged.”

Mr Johnson says he hopes the EU will “see sense and come to the table” with a better offer.

12:01 PM

England must do ‘whatever it takes’ to get coronavirus under control, health chief warns

The President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has said we must do “whatever it takes” to get coronavirus cases under control.

Asked if a lockdown needed to be announced for England and Scotland following similar announcements in Wales and Northern Ireland, Dr Katherine Henderson said: “I don’t really care what the terminology is, all I know is that we need to do something to get ourselves suppressing the community transmission of the virus.

“It seems to me we need to do whatever it takes to get the situation firmly under control so that we can vaccinate people and then move forward.”

She added: “We’ve got a real perfect storm going at the moment of lack of beds, a big wave of Covid patients and a desperate attempt to try and carry on doing  work.”

Follow the coronavirus live blog here.

11:36 AM

Who needs the Olympics? Wolves South West MP named Beard of the Year

During a year in which many men put their razors away and embraced a more shaggy look, the Parliamentary Beard of the Year has never faced tougher competition. 

But fending off upstarts, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West Stuart Anderson has claimed victory. 

11:28 AM

Jonathan Saxty: Brussels can smell panicking Britain’s desperation to get a Brexit deal

For those of us who doubt London’s willingness to go for no deal (why hasn’t the UK walked already?), Sunday’s joint statement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen came as little surprise.

Would the British Government really risk the perceived bad public relations of no deal on top of the hit from Coronavirus, now compounded by new restrictions? 

To be fair to Brussels, it is the British Government – and not the EU – which has moved the goalposts. The British Government signed up to the Withdrawal Agreement and all it entails for Northern Ireland. The British Government refused to walk when it should have left the room many times.

And, argues Jonathan Saxty, despite news of no deal preparations, it is the British Government which seems ill-prepared for no deal.

11:00 AM

No-deal Brexit odds – what are the chances of the UK leaving the EU without a trade deal?

Throughout 2020 bookmakers have offered shorter odds on the probability of a post-Brexit trade deal as the final deadline looms. 

In the months after Brexit Day on January 31, when the UK officially and legally left the European Union, bookmakers’ odds heavily favoured no deal.

But since then, the implied probability of no deal being reached has fallen considerably, spiking as the Internal Market Bill was first introduced in Parliament – a frosty period in UK/EU relations. 

10:51 AM

More than 100 MPs and Lords call for Government action on Rohingya genocide

More than 100 parliamentarians including former minister Jeremy Hunt have written to Dominic Raab, urging him to “show leadership and uphold human rights”, by joining the fight to protect the Rohingya Muslims from genocide. 

Some 104 MPs and Lords are calling on the UK Government to formally support The Gambia’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to prevent the Myanmar military’s persecution of the minority. 

10:44 AM

PM tells people to ‘minimise’ social contact ahead of Christmas bubble

Boris Johnson has urged people planning to form a Christmas bubble to reduce their social contacts from today. 

The Prime Minister tweeted: “Everyone must take personal responsibility to avoid passing the virus on to loved ones this Christmas.”

10:25 AM

No new travel corridors until January 7 in fresh blow for holidaymakers

No more countries are to be added to the travel corridor list until the new year, although there may be some “emergency removals”, Grant Shapps confirmed via Twitter this morning.

The Transport Secretary that there will not be any additions until January 7 at the earliest, leaving Britons with just 23 holiday destinations that can feasibly be booked over the Christmas period. 

Tour operators have been left frustrated by the continued exclusion of holiday favourites, such as South Africa, Jamaica and Egypt, all of which have far lower weekly coronavirus case rates than the UK.

Read our travel live blog for the latest updates. 

10:18 AM

Half of adults planning to form Christmas bubble this year: ONS

Half of adults across the country said they were planning to form a Christmas bubble, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This compared to 38 per cent who said they were not planning to form a bubble over the festive period and 12 per cent who said they did not know, according to an ONS survey between December 10 and 13.

The survey also showed that just over half (56 per cent) of adults in Great Britain reported they felt it was very easy or easy to understand rules for forming a Christmas bubble.

The ONS said this understanding seemed to increase with age, with 48 per cent of those aged between 16 and 29 reporting this, compared with 55 per cent of adults aged 30 to 49, 58 per cent of 50 to 69-year-olds and 61 per cent of people aged 70 years and over.

10:03 AM

Anthony Peregrine: Macron, Brexit, and the truth about French arrogance

It is easy so see Emmanuel Macron’s catching of Covid as karma. The fellow wants our finance houses – and our fish, insisting that instead we eat humble pie. This will teach him. Testing positive is about the only positive thing the French president has done of late. Let it bring him down a peg or two. This, I think, might be a generic British response to Mr Macron’s misfortune.

Typical Frenchman, yes? Certainly, and not visibly traumatised by the fact that he aggravates the British.

That said, Anthony Peregrine is not entirely sure that the arrogance which Mr Macron apparently personifies is quite as simple or as comprehensive as some think.

The typical Frenchman is not as in the caricature, that our neighbours are not as haughty as billed.

French President Macron tested positive for Covid yesterday - AP
French President Macron tested positive for Covid yesterday – AP

09:47 AM

‘Slower than envisioned’ vaccine production could delay normality, warns French scientific adviser

Europe is unlikely to return to normal post-coronavirus life before autumn next year as it could take longer than initially envisioned to role out vaccines, a senior French government scientific adviser has said. 

“Vaccines are a major source of hope but if you look at the vaccination capabilities that we will have in France and elsewhere in Europe, we will need time,” immunologist Jean-François Delfraissy told BFM television.

“The production of vaccines will be slower than envisioned 15 days or three weeks ago,” he said. “We will not face a vaccine shortfall but we will have something that is more spread out over time.”

Delfraissy estimated there were 22 million people in France more vulnerable than others and that it could take until May to vaccinate them all, before shots could be rolled out to others and that restrictions were likely to be in place until next autumn as a result.

09:39 AM

Fraser Nelson: The new Tory equality agenda is far more than a victory over wokeness

After a decade of pointless Tory “equality” speeches, it’s rare to come across one that’s worth listening to. In her role as equalities minister, Liz Truss announced yesterday that it’s time for a counter-revolution: to move away from seeing everything through the prism of race, sexuality or gender and to start seeing inequality in all of its dimensions. So also looking at north vs south, rich vs poor, city vs country.

This matters because, if the Tories get it right, it could add up to a new modernisation agenda to guide them through the wreckage of Covid and lockdown, writes Fraser Nelson.

Read his latest column here. 

 

09:24 AM

Have your say: Will a Brexit deal be reached by Sunday?

Another day, another Sunday deadline – but will this one actually yield a Brexit deal? 

Last night officials on both sides of the Channel privately admitted good progress had been made this week. 

But publicly, Boris Johnson warned Ursula von der Leyen that a deal was “drifting away from us” unless the EU “substantially” changes its position, and that talks were in a “serious situation”.

MEPs have said they will refuse to ratify an agreement if it is struck after midnight on Sunday. So will that be enough to focus minds? Is that the point where there is final acceptance of no deal? Or will the deadline be pushed back – again?

Have your say in the poll below:

09:16 AM

Chopper’s Politics: Brexit wrangling to go on for another 12 months

Wrangling over the relationship between the UK and European Union will continue for another 12 months, according to a former Government Brexit adviser.

Raoul Ruparel, who advised Theresa May on Brexit policy when she was Prime Minister, said that the UK and EU will only feel like they are in a “completely different relationship” in 2022.

Mr Ruparel told today’s Chopper’s Politics podcast next year would still see “the two sides set out they’re longer term approaches to things without the UK as a member of the EU.”

He added: “I think next year will still be lots of things in flux because of things being implemented, businesses getting used to it, the borders getting ready, all that kind of stuff, that will all continue to flux. 

“So I think after the end of next year, we’ll start to settle in more into sort of the normal new relationship, as it were.”

Listen below.

09:02 AM

Labour MPs attack ‘astonishing’ last-minute schools mass testing programme

Labour MPs are attacking the Government over its last-minute directive to secondary schools, making them responsible for preparing to mass test their students in the first week of the new term. 

Announced just last night, schools must recruit volunteers and staff able to conduct tests on 5.5m pupils in the week commencing January 4. Many schools are breaking up for Christmas holidays today, if not before.

Shadow education secretary Kate Green said it was “simply astonishing” that schools minister Nick Gibb “brush aside” concerns, while Darren Jones added: “Yet another example of Tory ministers thinking they can set a target and it will just happen. Enormous voids of incompetence between announcements and delivery.”

08:54 AM

Michel Barnier doubles down on fishing demand in Brexit talks

Michel Barnier doubled down on Brussels’ demand that fishing rights be linked to trade in the Brexit deal, writes Brussels corespondent James Crisp

The demand would give Brussels the power to hit the British economy by freezing companies out of the Brexit trade deal, if EU fishermen were shut out of UK waters. 

London has always rejected calls to link fisheries to market access because of the risk of retaliation, for example in the form of tariffs or suspension of market access, across the two agreements. 

The UK has leverage in the fisheries negotiations because EU fishermen are dependent on British waters. But that advantage would be lost if it was tied to the trade deal, where the EU has the upper hand by virtue of its larger market. 

08:47 AM

Covid vaccine could ‘turn people into alligators’, claims Brazil’s President

While most Government ministers around the world have been united in emphasising the safety of Covid vaccines, Brazil’s President Bolsonaro has taken a somewhat different approach. 

The populist leader, who caught the virus earlier this year, warned it could turn people into an alligator… or a “monk”. 

Watch the clip below. 

08:33 AM

UK Government ‘rules nothing out’ when it comes to third lockdown, says minister

Back in the UK, a minister has said “we rule nothing out” when asked about the possibility of a third national lockdown after Christmas.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, stressed that the Government preferred the tiered approach, which was based on localised data and applying “restrictions on an area-by-area basis”. 

Asked if there would be no national lockdown, he told BBC Breakfast: “We think the tier system is a very effective way, of course, (but) you know, we rule nothing out. This Government is absolutely determined to tackle this virus.”

He reiterated a warning of caution over Christmas.

He said: “We’re not there yet. That’s why we have to, all of us, be so careful over the Christmas period. To have a short period of Christmas, to keep to small numbers the number of people who join you for Christmas, to make sure we keep this deadly virus under control.”

08:22 AM

If Brexit trade deal is not struck ‘today, it will have to be later’, says Michel Barnier

Michel Barnier has told MEPs that it is a very “serious and sombre” moment, but stressed he believes a Brexit trade deal can be struck at some point. 

“If it is not today, it will have to be later,” he said. But the UK and EU have “strong links” and “I expect an ambitious level in that relationship,” he added. 

The chief negotiator concludes his speech to the European Parliament by being thanked by Ursula von der Leyen. 

08:19 AM

Michel Barnier: I cannot say what the outcome of Brexit talks will be

Michel Barnier says he will leave the European Parliament now as he has to return to negotiations. 

He says he and Lord Frost are seeking what is “acceptable” on fisheries, although he does not know if they will be successful. 

“At this hour I cannot say what the outcome of talks will be,” he adds.

He thanks the Parliament for supporting him – although, we know, yesterday they were putting pressure on him to agree a deal by today at the latest, threatening to refuse to ratify any deal struck afterwards. 

Michel Barnier addresses the European Parliament in Brussels - Reuters
Michel Barnier addresses the European Parliament in Brussels – Reuters

08:17 AM

EU is only asking for ‘reciprocity’ on fishing, claims Michel Barnier

Michel Barnier has said it would not be “fair or acceptable” for EU fishermen to have no transitory rights to fish in UK waters after Brexit.  

He says the EU is not asking for anything more than “reciprocity” – to be able to fish in each other’s waters – “no more no less”. 

He added that he cannot say what will happen in “the final straight”, saying the EU must be prepared for all eventualities, including a no-deal. 

08:12 AM

Michel Barnier: It is the moment of truth

Michel Barnier has told MEPs: “It’s the moment of truth, we have very little time remaining just a few hours.”

The EU’s chief negotiator  said the possibility of a deal “is here”, but the path to secure it “is very narrow”. 

He noted the UK’s red lines on sovereignty, but stressed the EU had its own red lines which had to be respected on “fair competition rules” and standards. 

It is the UK’s “right to depart from those standards” but that brings with it “consequences” that cess to the single market will be removed, he adds. 

08:08 AM

Minister insists shutting secondary schools in first week back is part of ‘national strategy’

Keeping schools open during the coronavirus crisis is a national priority, a minister has said, following a tussle between the Government and Greenwich council this week.

Schools minister Nick Gibb this morning said there was a distinction between what the local authority had done and the Government’s decision to shut secondary schools in the first week of the new year. 

“What is happening in January is we are rolling out the mass testing of 5.5 million people – that is why we are shutting the schools, but still primary schools will go back on January 4.”

He later told Times Radio: “That first week, that first five days, other secondary-school pupils will be learning from home from remote education so that schools can prepare for all secondary-school pupils to be tested in those first few weeks of term.

“So, it’s a national system, a national strategy.”

08:02 AM

Volunteers will be used for mass testing 5.5m school kids after Christmas, minister admits

The Government’s plan to test 5.5 million secondary school children in the first week back after Christmas will rely heavily on volunteers, a minister has admitted. 

Nick Gibb told Sky News that teachers would not be expected to help with the programme – which was only announced yesterday – saying they “are already fully occupied in keeping schools secure… they already have their hands full”.  

Despite concerns about rising cases, he insisted volunteers would be safe because they would be given PPE. The schools minister stressed that the plan would work because “people are very community minded”.

07:58 AM

UK ‘working around the clock’ on Brexit talks, says minister

The UK Government is “working around the clock” to secure a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, a minister has said.

Nick Gibb told Times Radio: “The Prime Minister says that we are in a very serious situation. We will test every route to getting a free trade agreement before the end of the year.

“But we can’t do so at the expense of our sovereignty. We cannot be the only nation in the world that doesn’t have control of its own seas, its own fisheries.”

The schools minister added: “We will work very hard. The Government is working around the clock to get a trade deal, but not at the expense of this country’s independence.”

07:45 AM

Help me clear Brexit hurdles, Johnson urges EU

Boris Johnson has urged Ursula von der Leyen to help him clear two final hurdles to a Brexit trade deal amid signs an agreement could come this weekend.

The Prime Minister told the European Commission president that a deal can be done if Brussels gives ground on fish and state subsidies, as MEPs set a new deadline of this Sunday.

However, he warned her that a deal was “drifting away from us” unless the EU “substantially” changes its position, and that talks were in a “serious situation”.

Mrs von der Leyen said bridging the gap between the two sides would be “very challenging” but negotiations will continue on Friday, and sources in the European Parliament claimed the two sides were “close to an agreement”.





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