EU 'still focused' on reaching Brexit trade deal
The European Commission said it was still focused on reaching a new partnership agreement with Britain before the end of the year, holding off on committing to update the EU's no-deal contingency plans.
"We're fully concentrated on the Brexit negotiations right now," said a spokesman of the European Commission, Daniel Ferrie.
"If contingency measures are needed, they would be limited and tailored to the existing very specific circumstances, and would be adopted in time to ensure that we are fully prepared for the first of January."
With just a month to go until the end of the transition period, talks remain stuck on fishing rights, described by Britain's foreign minister Dominic Raab as an "outstanding major bone of contention".
But he said there was "a deal to be done" after the EU showed progress on the so-called level playing field aimed at preventing unfair competition.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Raab said this could be the last week of "substantive" negotiations and urged the EU to recognise the "point of principle" on Britain's control of its waters.
He said: "As we leave the EU we're going to be an independent ... coastal state and we've got to be able to control our waters."
Fishing rights as well as the governance of any deal and the "level playing field" have been the main stumbling blocks preventing the two sides from reaching a deal thus far.
But with time running short, the UK is urging Brussels to concede on fishing quotas so an agreement can be reached.
Without a deal, the UK will leave the single market and customs union on 31 December, and trade under World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.
A Number 10 source said over the weekend that the bloc "must understand that we are not going to sell out our sovereignty".
Mr Barnier and Mr Frost resumed face-to-face talks in the capital on Saturday after negotiations were paused earlier this month when one of the EU team tested positive for coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said: "We have been saying for the last number of weeks that this is the key week and we're saying the same again this week."
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said: "I think perhaps the difference is that the UK side are saying it as well this week. We are running out of time here."
He said there is a month to go before "there is a very fundamental change" in how the EU and UK do trade and how the €80bn of trade across the Irish sea will function and regardless of reaching a deal there will be significant change and disruption, which a deal would help limit.
Minister Coveney said no one is questioning British control of its own waters, but the EU is saying that as the UK looks for access in "many markets", there is a counter ask from the EU requesting access to fishing waters that fleets have historically had access too.
This is, he said, a negotiation that requires a bit of give and take.
Minister Coveney said Irish interests in British fishing waters are significant and it is about sustainably managed stocks.
He said he had faith that Mr Barnier can negotiate a balanced deal that everyone can live with.
Monday, 30 Nov 2020 12:02 RTE NEWS