EU upbeat about Brexit trade talks with UK

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Valdis Dombrovskis, a European Commission vice-president, said yesterday: 'The negotiations are ongoing with great intensity because we are now in the final push to reach agreement.

"Nevertheless, there is hope that the negotiations can be concluded quickly if and when the necessary political decisions are taken in London", the diplomat added after member state envoys received an update on the talks.

It was apparently made clear that the two sides are very close to agreement in nearly all areas apart from the three which have long prevented major progress being made.

'January 1, 2021 is getting close; we need a safety net.

"After hard weeks with very, very slow progress, now we have seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files".

They are locked in talks as the clock counts down to a December deadline.

Mr Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said he and his United Kingdom counterpart Lord Frost had "decided to suspend the negotiations at our level for a short period" in the wake of the test result.

In his tweet, Frost said "the health of our teams comes first" and he was following the situation closely.

Talks would continue remotely next week, and in person "when it's judged safe to do so", the spokesman added.

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BBC Brussels correspondent Nick Beake said he had been told Mr Barnier would now self-quarantine following the team member's test result.

A UK Government spokesman said: 'The Commission has informed us that an official in their delegation has tested positive for Covid-19.

Prior to this week's talks, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock had said that the country's red lines remain unchanged and "we're preparing for whatever the outcome is".

Britain said there had been some progress and that the two sides had common draft treaty texts, though significant elements were yet to be agreed.

Foley said that not only Brexit, but also COVID-19 have created some volatility for the British currency as "chief European Union negotiator Barnier finds himself in a position in which he needs to self-isolate". The latest round of talks was taking place in the Belgian capital.

The French President's hardline stance will heap even more pressure on the European Parliament's tight timetable for ratification of the deal, which is thought to be between 600 and 1,800 pages long.

Though both sides would suffer economically from a failure to secure a trade deal, most economists think the British economy would take a greater hit, at least in the near-term, as it is relatively more reliant on trade with the European Union than vice versa.

The EU briefing to the ambassadors and the comments by the three leaders may be an attempt to pressure the United Kingdom government to compromise further before a deal is struck at a later date.

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