The Daily Mail has quoted unnamed UK government sources as saying the EU and the UK are "widely expected" to wrap up Brexit trade deal talks "one way or another" before Christmas, but that a no-deal scenario is still in place.
The sources claimed the government is frustrated about EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's ultimatum pertaining to the fisheries issue, something that may enable Brussels to slap "lightning tariffs" on London if it restricts access to UK fishing waters.
Barnier earlier stressed it would not be fair if European fishermen have no transitory rights in British waters, noting the EU must have a sovereign right to respond if London tries to stop them from accessing those waters.
"Talks have become stuck due to unreasonable EU demands on areas such as subsidies and fisheries. We need to get any deal right and based on terms which respect what the British people voted for", the sources said.
They expressed regret that Brussels is "still struggling to get the flexibility needed from member states and are continuing to make demands that are incompatible with our independence".
According to them, the government "cannot accept a deal that doesn't leave" the UK "in control of its own laws or waters".
"We're continuing to try every possible path to an agreement, but without a substantial shift from the [European] Commission we will be leaving on World Trade Organisation terms on 31 December", the sources pointed out.
Johnson Introduces Tier 4 COVID-19 Restrictions
The remarks came shortly after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that areas across southeast and eastern England, London included, will be plunged into new Tier Four coronavirus restrictions, adding, "We cannot continue with Christmas as planned". This followed Britain being rocked by the news of a new mutated novel coronavirus strain discovered across the country, predominantly in southern England and in the British capital.
"People should not enter or leave tier-four areas and tier-four residents must not stay overnight away from home", and can only meet one member of another household "in an outdoor space", Johnson stressed.
The prime minister repeated previous calls for people to work from home "where possible", with the exception of those such as construction workers. He added the rules would be subject to regular reviews, with the first set for 30 December.
Last-Minute Pressure on Brexit Talks?
Bloomberg reported in this regard that the new restrictions put "last-minute pressure" on the Brexit talks as time is running out for negotiators to reach a trade deal.
The news outlet recalled the COVID-19 pandemic had seriously affected the post-Brexit trade talks since beginning in March and that "both chief negotiators were forced into isolation after displaying symptoms early in the process and for months the two sides could only talk by video link".
If no trade deal is secured before the end of the year, the World Trade Organisation's rules will come into effect starting in 2021, including customs tariffs and full border checks for UK goods going across the English Channel.