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Brexit: UK and EU restart face-to-face negotiations in London

Suban Abdulla
·2-min read
EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Westminster, London, ahead of talks with the UK Government to strike a post-Brexit trade deal. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Westminster, London, ahead of talks with the UK Government to strike a post-Brexit trade deal. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

Britain and the European Union have recommenced in person Brexit talks on Saturday after EU’s top negotiator Michel Barnier arrived in London to meet with his UK counterpart, David Frost.

Negotiations were paused last week, after an outbreak of COVID-19 in the EU negotiating team.

Brexit talks have been hit and miss over the last couple of years, as talks continue in a last-ditch attempt to find an agreement.

The two sides are still trashing out differences including fishing rights in UK waters, governance of the agreement, and unfair competition rules.

But, time is fast running out to reach a deal that can be ratified by UK and EU leaders before the transition period ends on 1 January 2021. Reuters reported that the EU will not make a decision on whether to allow UK financial services to access the EU market before the deadline, citing unnamed sources.

On Friday, Barnier said that he was "very happy" to be back in the capital and would keep working with "patience and determination.”

Frost called on the EU to “respect UK sovereignty” ahead of the talks, saying it was still "possible" to agree a deal, even though it was "late" in the process.

Meanwhile, UK prime minister Boris Johnson spoke to Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin on Friday evening to underline his commitment to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the UK, a government statement said.

Although Britain officially left the EU in January 2020, the post-Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

If no agreement is made, trade will default to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules — a move which would impact borders, spook financial markets and disrupt delicate supply chains that stretch across Europe and beyond, particularly at a time when the world is grappling with COVID-19.

READ MORE: Pound too hot to handle as Brexit talks go down to the wire

It comes after the UK and Canada agreed to continue trading under the same terms as the current EU deal after the Brexit transition period ends.

The government said the agreement paves the way for talks to begin next year for a new comprehensive agreement with Canada, which has been touted as one of the benefits of the UK leaving the EU.

Johnson and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau sealed the “agreement in principle” in a video call last week, the Department for International Trade (DIT) said.

The deal “in principle” locks in certainty for UK businesses trading goods and services with Canada worth £20bn ($26.6bn).

Watch: What is a no-deal Brexit and what are the potential consequences?