A last hurrah? Deal optimism grows as EU Brexit negotiator extends London talks

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier arrives at Downing street in London, 23 October, 2020. Photo: Ray Tang/Xinhua via Getty
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier arrives at Downing street in London, 23 October, 2020. Photo: Ray Tang/Xinhua via Getty

Optimism for a last-minute Brexit deal grows as EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier announced that he will extend his stay in London to continue talks.

The original plan was for Barnier to return to Brussels on Sunday, before he signalled that he and his team of negotiators will stay until Wednesday.

Barnier arrived in London on Thursday to resume Brexit talks with UK’s chief negotiator David Frost, who was meant to head to Brussels next week to continue the negotiations.

On Friday, EU’s Brexit negotiator promised to “intensify talks” saying that both sides share a "huge common responsibility."

The decision to extend talks comes after a source told the Sunday Telegraph that negotiators had agreed solutions on over "90%" of the areas making up an agreement. Another source said that the EU side "seem to have acknowledged that it is more of a two-way street. There is now a possibility we might be able to get there with a meaningful process.”

Rising coronavirus cases in the Belgian capital could also have posed another risk for Britain’s large team of negotiators who were meant to travel to Brussels.

READ MORE: Brexit: Business group warns prices of items may rise by 'almost a third'

In more good news for the UK, French president Emmanuel Macron is said to be laying the groundwork for a delicate compromise on fisheries, to help the UK and EU agree a deal.

Macron who has publicly taken a hard stance on the issue, told French fishermen to brace for a smaller catch after Brexit, Reuters reports.

In the event of no deal, British waters would be out of reach for many French and other EU vessels who fish there. So, any Brexit agreement would need to fix catch quotas for over a 100 species.

Britain has already indicated last month that it would be willing to reach a compromise, after offering a transition period from 2021 to increase its catch gradually rather than overnight.

Keeping the winning streak, UK’s trade secretary Liz Truss also announced on Friday that the government signed its trade deal with Japan, calling it a “historic moment.” A deal was agreed in principle in September this year.

The news comes after senior minister Michael Gove claimed earlier this month there was a two-in-three chance of Britain and the EU agreeing a Brexit deal.

Gove warned that the UK would still leave without a deal if necessary. He told the Lords’ Brexit Committee: “No one will be happier than me if we can conclude an agreement but we have an absolute obligation to ensure the country is ready in the event that we don't.”

Earlier this month the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called for a 11th hour Brexit deal, saying that only 4% of UK businesses would prefer no-deal Brexit on trade in the coming months.

Previously, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) warned companies reported having “little cash or information to plan” for the impact of significant changes in UK-EU trade from the end of the year.

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