Brexit LIVE: VDL pleads for fishing access ‘stability’ – ignoring UK sovereignty demand

Brexit: Farage says Withdrawal Agreement is 'new EU treaty'

For the first time in several weeks, the European Commission President was reasonably optimistic over the prospect of a Free Trade Agreement with Britain, with just three weeks remaining until the end of the transition period on December 31. She told the European Parliament on Wednesday: “As things stand, I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not. But I can tell you that there is a path to an agreement now. The path may be very narrow but it is there.”

Ms von der Leyen also hailed a “big step forward” in agreeing a “strong mechanism on non-regression”, which would “ensure that our common high labour, social and environmental” standards will not be undercut”.

However, she admitted, “difficulties remain on the question of how to really future-proof fair competition”.

Fisheries also continue to be a huge stumbling block and are seen by many as the one major issue that could collapse trade talks altogether and result in a no-deal outcome for both sides.

The UK has insisted on taking full control of its own coastal waters, while the EU has demanded continued access to those waters for its fishermen and fisherwomen.

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In the latest twist in the saga, an EU official told Reuters that Brussels has rejected Britain’s offer of phased access to its waters over three years by EU fishing vessels and the sides were “an ocean apart” on the issue.

Ms von der Leyen admitted the issue over fishing access may be the one issue that might not be resolved in trade talks with the UK.

She told MEPs: “On fisheries, the discussion is still very difficult.

“We do not question the UK’s sovereignty on its own waters, but we ask for predictability and stability for our fishermen and our fisherwomen.

“And in all honesty, it sometimes feels that we will not be able to resolve this question, but we must continue to try finding a solution.”

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7.45am update: Bank of England to wait for Brexit endgame

The Bank of England is expeted to refrain from more stimulus on Thursday as it waits to see whether the outcome of post-Brexit trade talks with the EU will deepen problems already facing the UK’s coronavirus-damaged economy

London and Brussels are locked in talks over how to avoid the shock of import tariffs on trade from January.

It means the BoE looks set to leave its bond buying programme at £895billion, having ramped it up by £150billion last month.

The BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee is also likely to keep its benchmark interest rate at a historic low of 0.1 percent.

JP Morgan economist Allan Monks said: “We continue to expect a (Brexit) deal will be done.

“But the main focus from the MPC this week will be any guidance it chooses to offer about how it would react to a no-deal.”

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