A Brexit deal could be agreed by the end of the month after negotiations between UK and EU officials picked up in the last week, reports suggest.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said there were still ‘quite some metres to the finish’ but there had been ‘better progress’ in recent days.
Whitehall officials close to the talks told the Express that a draft agreement could be debated in the House of Commons before next weekend, with ministers keen to get one secured by November 30.
One said ‘it’s all hands on deck now’, adding: ‘It’s essential we secure one sooner rather than later as time is running out.’
Hopes have been raised that an agreement may be in sight, but businesses fear the high trade tariffs that will be imposed if no deal is brokered.
Face-to-face negotiations were temporarily suspended on Thursday after a member of Michel Barnier’s EU team tested positive for Covid-19.
Ms von der Leyen said that although there is still a way to go, there had been ‘more movement’ on important issues.
But she said ‘time pressure is high’ with the end of the transition period, during which the UK remains in the single market and following EU law, rapidly closing in.
Despite months of intensive talks, gaps still remain on three key issues – fisheries, state aid rules and governance arrangements – which are still to be resolved.
Ms von der Leyen said negotiators were now working from legal texts with ‘substance where you can go through line by line’.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said the Government still wanted to get an agreement ‘as quickly or as soon as possible’.
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