The United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) have restarted talks on post-Brexit trade, with a minister telling the British broadcasting Corporation (BBC) there is “still a deal to be done” despite time running short.
But Environment Secretary George Eustice said “sticking points” on fishing and business rules remained.
UK chief negotiator Lord Frost is taking part in discussions with EU counterpart Michel Barnier in Brussels.
Ireland’s foreign minister has said it is “in everybody’s interest” to reach an agreement soon.
Border checks and taxes will be introduced for goods travelling between the UK and the EU if a trade deal is not reached and ratified by the end of the year.
But the two sides still disagree over access to UK waters by the EU’s fishing fleets – an issue which erupted last week, with the UK accusing the EU of making extra “last-minute” demands.
They are also in dispute over what measures there should be to ensure a “level playing field” for businesses on both sides.
Eustice told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “There’s still a deal to be done, but there’s no denying that the end of last week was quite a setback.”
He added: “The sticking points remain – quite fundamental ones. We’ve been clear all along that we can only do an agreement if it respects our sovereignty.”
Eustice also said: “I think we probably are now in the final few days in terms of deciding whether there can be an agreement.”
The EU wants this deal. A no-deal scenario would be costly for EU businesses – a nightmare for European fishing communities, largely dependent on access to UK waters.
The UK government isn’t the only one briefing that no deal “is better than a bad deal”. EU countries that do most trade with the UK, like France, the Netherlands and Belgium, say that too.
This week, they piled the pressure on those representing them in negotiations not to give “too much” away. France threatens to use its veto, while Germany speaks softly of red lines and compromise.
The tone is different; the message the same. The EU priority is to protect its single market in a deal with the UK.
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