Publishedduration2 hours ago
image copyrightPA Media
image captionThere are long queues of traffic at the Port of Dover as the clock ticks down for a trade deal to be reached
Trade talks between the UK and European Union are due to resume in Brussels with one day to go until a deadline imposed by the two sides.
The leaders of both parties have warned they are unlikely to reach a post-Brexit trade deal by Sunday.
On Friday, Boris Johnson chaired a “stock-take” on the UK’s preparedness for a no deal scenario.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Defence has said four Royal Navy patrol boats are ready to protect UK fishing waters.
The Sunday deadline was set by Mr Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after the pair met in Brussels on Wednesday, after months of talks failed to achieve an agreement.
Mr Johnson said the EU needed to make a “big change” over the main sticking points on fishing rights and business competition rules, while Mrs von der Leyen said no deal was the most probable end to “difficult” talks.
The EU has rejected Mr Johnson’s request to bypass the European Commission and speak directly to French President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel about the unresolved issues.
According to EU officials, he was told discussions could only take place through the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, who is meeting with his UK equivalent in Brussels.
If a trade deal is not reached and ratified by both sides by 31 December, the UK and EU could impose taxes – tariffs – on each other’s goods.
This could lead to higher prices, among other changes.
There’s no denying that the prospect of the pain of no deal at all with the UK certainly weighs on EU minds.
A German think tank has estimated that up to 700,000 European jobs could be at risk.
But Europe’s leaders are keen to clarify they won’t personally intervene in the current impasse in trade talks. There’ll be no last-minute handshake or “a-ha” moment in Paris, Warsaw or Berlin.
Behind the scenes, leaders are involved in discussions with their negotiators, but they don’t want to be face-to-face, or ear-to-ear, with Boris Johnson in public.
EU countries are joined together in their single market. So no individual EU leader – not even the most powerful ones, in France and Germany – can be perceived to be making the political compromises that could clinch the UK deal.
Concessions will have an impact on the whole single market – and therefore all member states, as a collective.
A major sticking point in negotiations has been access to UK fishing waters, with the EU warning that without access to UK waters for its fleets, UK fishermen will no longer get special access to EU markets to sell their goods.