Great Britain

Brexit news latest – Crunch talks resume in London TODAY after Boris Johnson holds tense phone call with Irish PM

DEAL OR NO DEAL

TRADE talks between the UK and EU have resumed this morning after Boris Johnson held a tense phone call with Irish PM Michael Martin.

The EU chief negotiator said he would work with "patience and determination" to reach a deal with his British counterparts as talks kicked off this weekend.

Meanwhile, prime minister Boris Johnson spoke with Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin late Friday and “underlined his commitment to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the UK”.

But he also “reaffirmed the need to prioritise the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland,” according to a summary of the call released by London.

The news comes after the prime minister admitted "substantial differences" are blocking hopes of the two sides reaching a trade deal.

Talks remain stalled over the thorny issues of fishing and state aid as the clock ticks down to the end of the transition period on December 31.

Last week, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier had to self isolate after a colleague tested positive for Covid, suspending all in-person negotiations.

Follow our Brexit live blog for all the latest news and updates…

  • STARMER RISKS REOPENING BREXIT DIVIDE WITHIN LABOUR PARTY

    Sir Keir Starmer risks reopening a Brexit divide in his Labour Party as he edges closer to backing the Tory Government’s UK trade deal with the EU.

    Labour leader Starmer is said to be under pressure to throw his weight behind a deal from what's left of the so-called ‘Red Wall’ - Labour MPs in Brexit heartlands.

    But Sir Keir, a former senior public prosecutor and Labour’s former Brexit spokesman, risks reopening wounds in a party - battling to make a comeback from the divides under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

    This is because Labour MPs, who campaigned desperately for a People’s Vote following the UK’s decision to leave the Brussels club, are said to be furious over Sir Keir’s focus on “fighting the last war” by reaching out to Brexit voters in the red wall.

  • SAVE OUR SAUSAGES

    Brussels is threatening to block British bangers made on the mainland from being sold in Northern Ireland. 

    Eurocrats are insisting imports of chilled meat products from the UK will be banned after Brexit because of EU red tape. 

    Read more here.

  • FIRST YEAR UNI STUDENTS COULD FACE £800 BILL TO ENTER UK IF THEY DO NOT ARRIVE BEFORE JANUARY

    First-year students may face an £800 bill to come to the UK because of Brexit if they do not arrive before January

    EU students who enrolled in British universities and have been learning online could have to pay hundreds of pounds in fees if they do not physically move before December 31.e

    According to a Guardian report, the Home Office said these students would not qualify for EU pre-settled status if they arrived after the end of the transition period.

    It could mean tens of thousands of students will have to pay two new post-Brexit costs - £348 in application fees for a visa with £470 a year in health charges.

    Mantas Gudelis, 19, who started a biochemistry degree at Edinburgh University in September but is studying at home in Lithuania, told the newspaper: "The health surcharge over four years is £2,000 and for my family that is a lot of money, especially as one of my parents was laid off because of the pandemic. The system should allow us to come because this is not our fault."

  • ACTIVIST GROUP HITS OUT AT POLICE FOR WASTING TIME OVER 'TOILET OF ENGLAND' STICKERS IN KENT

    A member of the activist team, known collectively as EU Flag Mafia, hit out at the idea of officers devoting time to the stickered signs.

    They told the PA news agency: "We acted on behalf of the residents of Kent.

    "Everyone who was involved in placing 'Toilet' on the road signs lives in Kent and we reject any suggestion that any damage was done to any of the road signs - the stickers can be removed very easily.

    "If any Kent resident feels offended, we suggest they simply remove the stickers.

    "We suggest that Kent Police have better things to be doing with their valuable time, like trying to work out how the people in Kent will be still be able to travel around the county while thousands of lorries are gridlocked in jams around the county."

  • POLICE INVESTIGATE 'TOILET OF ENGLAND' PRANK ON KENT ROAD SIGNS

    Activists behind an anti-Brexit stunt that rebranded Kent as the "Toilet of England" have said police have better things to do than investigate their prank.

    Signs across the county were changed by a group of campaigners opposed to Brexit.

    Where before motorists would be politely informed they were entering the Garden of England - as Kent is known - the new message read: "Welcome to Kent The Toilet of England".

    The stunt aimed to highlight fears of huge lorry queues along the county's motorways, with suggestions that portable toilets will have to be installed on roadsides for use by delayed drivers.

    Kent Police said they have been made aware of "criminal damage" to road signs in the county and inquiries are continuing.

  • JOHNSON UNDERLINES COMMITMENT TO 'REACHING A DEAL THAT RESPECTS UK SOVEREIGNTY' WITH IRISH PM

    Boris Johnson spoke with Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin late Friday and "underlined his commitment to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the UK".

    But he also "reaffirmed the need to prioritise the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland," according to a summary of the call released by London.

    Johnson earlier told reporters the "likelihood of a deal is very much determined by our friends and partners in the EU", adding there were "substantial and important differences to be bridged."

    A key sticking point is the EU's demand for a post-Brexit "level playing field", with punishing trade penalties if either side diverges from agreed standards or state aid regulations, but Britain does not want to be bound by rules made in Brussels.

  • IN PICTURES: MICHEL BARNIER AND TEAM LEAVE LONDON HOTEL FOR FURTHER BREXIT TALKS

  • HAULIERS CONCERNED OVER INCREASE OF MIGRANTS ATTEMPTING TO ENTER BRITAIN AFTER BREXIT TRANSITION ENDS

    Lorry drivers say there will be an increase in migrants attempting to break in to lorries bound for Britain after the Brexit transition period.

    In a report by The Times, one haulier described "war" scenes near Calais in northern France where migrants attempting to reach the UK have tried to hide in lorries stuck in traffic near the port.

    Sébastien Rivéra, Calais area general secretary of the French road hauliers' federation, told the newspaper: "They try to open the doors or to climb on to the roofs to cut open tarpaulins."

    The Calais port authority has threatened to stop its attempts to detect lorry stowaways unless Britain takes on the €8 million (£7.2 million) annual cost.

  • CONCERNS RISE OVER EFFECT OF BREXIT ON PFIZER COVID VACCINE SUPPLY CHAIN

    There are concerns over ­Pfizer coronavirus vaccine supplies and added costs after the drugs company shut a cold storage facility in the south of ­England ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period next month.

    Operations at a Pfizer vaccine packaging and distribution plant in Havant have been winding down before a transfer to a manufacturing site at ­Puurs in Belgium in October.

    According to The Times, Stephen Morgan, the Labour MP for Portsmouth South, asked what assessment ministers had made of the effect of the new customs regulations on vaccine imports from Pfizer after the end of the Brexit transition period.

    “The government is set to begin the rollout of the vaccine in only a matter of days, but it still has not clarified what impact this closure could have on ­logistics for the national vaccine programme,” he said.

    “The uncertainty of our trading relationship post-Brexit only raises concerns on this.”

  • BARNIER APPROACHING TALKS TODAY 'WITH PATIENCE AND DETERMINATION'

    Mr Barnier told reporters that he would continue to work with "patience and determination" to reach an agreement.

    Face-to-face negotiations were paused last week after one of the EU team tested positive for coronavirus.

    Mr Barnier tweeted earlier on Friday that the "same significant divergences persist" between the UK and EU.

    Talks have been deadlocked for months over the issues of fishing rights, the governance of any deal, and the "level playing field" conditions aimed at preventing unfair competition by cutting standards or increasing state subsidies.

  • FRENCH MEP SAYS EU ACCESS TO UK FISHING WATERS 'A FAIR EXCHANGE'

    French MEP Pierre Karleskind, who chairs the European Parliament's fisheries committee, suggested EU access to UK fishing waters was a fair exchange for UK access to the common market.

    He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have this question of access to our common market - this is exactly the same, this is symmetrical.

    "You asked for your companies to access the common market of the European Union, and we ask our fishermen to access your waters.

    "I think there is something simple - it is reciprocity."

    He also said a no-deal Brexit would be a "catastrophe" for the UK economy.

  • LORD FROST CALLS ON BRUSSELS TO RESPECT UK SOVEREIGNTY

    Lord Frost called on Brussels on Friday to respect UK sovereignty.

    Writing on Twitter on Friday, he said that while it was "late" to reach a deal an agreement was still "possible".

    "Some people are asking me why we are still talking. My answer is that it's my job to do my utmost to see if the conditions for a deal exist. It is late, but a deal is still possible, and I will continue to talk until it's clear that it isn't.

    "But for a deal to be possible it must fully respect UK sovereignty. That is not just a word - it has practical consequences. That includes: controlling our borders; deciding ourselves on a robust and principled subsidy control system; and controlling our fishing waters.

    "We look to reach an agreement on this basis, allowing the new beginning to our relationship with the EU which, for our part, we have always wanted. We will continue to work hard to get it - because an agreement on any other basis is not possible."

  • BARNIER PICTURED ARRIVING IN LONDON TONIGHT

    EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier arrives by Eurostar at St Pancras International railway station, London, ahead of talks with the UK Government, as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.

  • ‘TOUGH’ TO MAKE PROGRESS IN TALKS

    A source close to the negotiations said it had been “tough” recently to make progress.

    With just five weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU’s orbit on December 31, both sides are calling on the other to compromise to avoid a tumultuous finale to the five-year Brexit crisis.

    Face-to-face negotiations will resume shortly after they had to be suspended last week when one of Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for the coronavirus.

  • BREXIT WILL SPARK A RISE IN DOGGING

    No-deal Brexit could lead to an increase in dogging spots in Kent lay-bys, a minister has warned.

    The cabinet minister is said to have voiced his concerns about quiet car parks being used for doggers at last week’s Conservative Party conference, The Sunday Times reports.

    He fears stalled lorry drivers will get bored waiting in their cabs and head out seeking lewd liaisons.

    “One of the things we talk about in these no-deal meetings concerns hauliers and their activities,” the minister said.

    “The main thing is whether they will turn up at the Channel ports with the right paperwork. But there are also dogging hotspots all over the place.”

  • ‘MAJOR GAP’ IN DEALING WITH HARMFUL ONLINE CONTENT

    Britain will be relying on tech giants to police harmful online content until new legislation is introduced post-Brexit, a former home secretary has warned.

    Lord Blunkett said a “major gap” will exist in the weeks and months after the UK leaves the EU over who can exert control on video sharing platforms (VSPs) and on-demand services, such as Facebook, Netflix and TikTok.

    This will leave the country “at the mercy” of the tech companies to prevent child abuse and terror content appearing on their platforms until further measures are introduced in UK law via the online harms bill, the Labour peer added.

    Lord Blunkett’s remarks came as peers approved regulations to maintain Ofcom’s remit to regulate VSPs within the UK jurisdiction once the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

    But peers heard the power will reside with regulators in Europe to deal with platforms based in the remaining 27 member states, with Labour warning the UK will be “shut out” and lacking influence.

  • 'INSULTING' BREXIT FISHING OFFER

    A British fishing boss has hit out at Michel Barnier's "insulting" Brexit offer, claiming it "won't happen".

    Mr Barnier said Brussels would be willing to give between 15 and 18 percent of fish quota caught in UK waters by European boats back to Britain.

    John Balls, chairman of North Devon Fishermen’s Association, said: “15 and 18 percent? That’s rubbish! That’s an insult to the UK fishing industry.

    “What I find bizarre is he is offering us a fish quota which is in our waters."

  • OPTIMISM OVER BREXIT DEAL SEES STERLING SURGE

    Sterling hovered near its three month high on today.

    Weakness in the U.S. dollar amid thin trading due to the Thanksgiving holiday further bolstered sterling, which has crept to a three-month high in recent days on optimism over Brexit talks between Britain and the European Union.

    With five weeks left of a transition period before Britain leaves the bloc, markets anticipate a deal can be struck even though stumbling blocks remain.

    Analysts cautioned that the pound could be in for a bumpy ride in the months ahead despite its current strength, as the twin threats of Brexit and the Scottish vote crystallise.

    “Deal or no deal, theres sure to be chaos early next year. If that encourages people to vote to leave the UK it would be a double blow to the currency,” said Marshall Gittler, Head of Investment Research at BDSwiss Group in a research note.

  • FISHING RIGHTS - 'RED HERRING'

    Battles to get an agreement on fishing rights is a "red herring" claimed MP Andrew Bridgen.

    Mr Bridgen tweeted: “Despite Macron’s faux rage, the fish issue is a Red Herring and will be ditched at the last minute, the EU will ask the UK to compromise on what they really want which is the so called ‘level playing field’.

    “This would hamstring the UK forever with EU regulations.

    “We must not surrender our red lines.”

  • TIME RUNNING OUT FOR AGREEMENT ON GIBRALTAR

    Time is running out to find a Brexit agreement between Spain and Britain over Gibraltar, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya said.

    At stake in the talks is avoiding a hard European Union border in southern Spain after Britain completes its departure from the EU at the end of this year.

    “Talks between Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar continue, but there too time is running out,” Gonzalez Laya told radio station RNE. “We won’t stop until the last second, but we expect in this game the active participation of the United Kingdom.”

    Spain ceded Gibraltar, a rocky enclave near its southernn tip, to Britain in 1713 after a war, but claims sovereignty over it. About 15,000 people commute daily from Spain to Gibraltar, which has a population of 32,000.

    Spain has agreed to put the issue of its sovereignty claim to one side for now to focus on the opportunity to keep the border with Gibraltar open.

  • NORHTERN IRELAND COULD BECOME 'OVERSEAS TERRITORY'

    Ministers have been warned that Northern Ireland will become an "overseas territory" of the European Union under the Brexit deal.

    Ulster Unionist Lord Empey said: "I have to say the government has been consistently refusing to accept the fact that what it has done with the protocol is turn Northern Ireland virtually into an overseas territory of the European Union with its own set of discreet pieces of legislation.

    "And it's still leaving the regulatory regime in the hands of Brussels, we're still subject to state aid rules when Great Britain will not be, and we have a huge pile of problems arising in the next few weeks where every tin of baked beans that comes into Northern Ireland will have to be notified to the authorities in advance and is subject to inspection.

    "How under these circumstances can the minister maintain that we're in any sense on an equal footing with our colleagues in the rest of the United Kingdom?"

  • 2% HIT TO UK’S GDP IF NO BREXIT DEAL

    The Office for Budget Responsibility said that failure to reach an agreement with Brussels could result in a 2% hit to gross domestic product, the standard measure of the size and health of a nation’s economy.

    Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “The PM believes that the UK will thrive with or without a deal with the EU.

    “But it remains our ambition to reach an FTA (Free Trade Agreement), which is why we continue to negotiate.”

    The UK will leave the single market and customs union at the end of December.

  • KENT REBRANDED 'TOILET OF ENGLAND'

    Brexit protesters vandalised a sign for Kent with "toilet of England".

    A group called EU Flag Mafia said they had used “scissors and stickers” to transform dozens of signs at 27 entry roads across the 90-mile county border.

  • UK WILL ‘THRIVE’ WITHOUT EU DEAL SAYS JOHNSON

    Boris Johnson has said the UK will “thrive” even without a trade deal with the EU.

    Downing Street insisted that the Government remained committed to securing a post-Brexit trade deal and talks were continuing virtually with Michel Barnier’s EU team.

    The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Negotiations will continue virtually. It’s a matter for them when and if they choose to travel.”

    The spokesman said the UK side was “committed to working hard” to reach a free-trade agreement (FTA) and were working to “bridge the gaps that remain between us”.

    “Throughout the negotiation our position has been consistently clear,” the spokesman added.

  • BARNIER PRESENTATION DIDN'T "PRESENT BRIGHT PICTURE OF TALKS"

    EU officials have played down hopes of a breakthrough in the trade talks between the UK and Brussels.

    In a closed-door meeting for national diplomats in Brussels, Barnier said that he was not able to say yet whether a new UK trade deal would be ready in time, a source revealed.

    The talks are still snagged on three main issues, fair competition guarantees, governance and fisheries, but neither, so far, have shown a willingness to shift enough on them to make way for any breakthrough.

    Barnier told EU envoys differences persist on the three controversial issues, a senior EU diplomat told Reuters.

    The Barnier presentation did not present “a particularly bright picture” of the talks, the diplomat added.

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