00:56 GMT16 January 2021
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    Issues such as fishing quotas and market terms, including a level playing field remain major stumbling blocks between London and Brussels. While the deadline initially set for a trade accord blueprint has already expired, speculation is now rife that a no-deal withdrawal is quite likely.

    A post-Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union may be coming soon, but London will not sacrifice its interests for the sake of a deal becoming a reality, according to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak.

    "With a constructive attitude and goodwill on all sides we can get there", the politician told Sky News. "It's clear what the shape of the deal looks like".

    While acknowledging the importance and desirability of a negotiated settlement in comments to LBC radio, Sunak called against "stretching for a deal at any cost", arguing that's "not the right thing to do".

    Britain's chief negotiator David Frost (L) and EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrive for a working breakfast after a seventh round of talks, in Brussels on August 21, 2020.
    © AFP 2020 / YVES HERMAN
    Britain's chief negotiator David Frost (L) and EU's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier arrive for a working breakfast after a seventh round of talks, in Brussels on August 21, 2020.

    On Wednesday, European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was prepared for Britain divorcing it without a newly clinched trade agreement with the bloc's member states, irrespective of the "genuine progress" the sides have managed to make, as the end to the post-Brexit transition period draws near.

    Focus on 'Integrity of Single Market'

    "The European Union is well prepared for a no-deal-scenario, but of course we prefer to have an agreement", she said, stressing the bloc's readiness to "be creative", and the EU's firm intention "not to put into question the integrity of our single market".

    As per Ms von der Leyen, negotiators had agreed upon the outline of a new partnership treaty on goods and services, and likewise on transport issues, with progress also made on issues from judicial cooperation to distribution of welfare benefits.

    Yet, major sticking points like fishing quotas and thorny governance issues still remain unresolved, pushing the two parties away from each other. In a recent rant, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian accused Britain of "dragging its feet" in last-ditch Brexit talks and warned Paris would not yield on the issue of fisheries, a totemic one for both Britain and France.

    A fishing boat at work in the English Channel, off the southern coast of England, Saturday Feb. 1, 2020. The fishing industry is predicted to be one of the main subjects for negotiations between the UK and Europe, after the UK left the European Union on Friday.
    © AP Photo / Gareth Fuller
    A fishing boat at work in the English Channel, off the southern coast of England, Saturday Feb. 1, 2020. The fishing industry is predicted to be one of the main subjects for negotiations between the UK and Europe, after the UK left the European Union on Friday.

    Deal in Limbo

    An official, cited by Reuters, confirmed a deal could soon become a reality, but it's unlikely to happen before the coming weekend.

    On 31 December 2020, the UK is due to withdraw from the European Union's Single Market and Customs Union, which will mark the end of the so-called transition period that began on 31 January 2020 with Britain's formal withdrawal from the bloc.

    A supposed mid-November deadline lauded by both sides as essential to get a UK-EU post-withdrawal trade agreement in place for the end of the year has now come and gone, in part due to talks having been stalled several times because of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Whatever the case, the limbo regarding new trade regulations has already sparked speculation that no accord whatsoever will come along unless either of the sides makes the first move.

    Related:

    Fisheries Won’t Be Adjustment Variable in Post-Brexit Talks, France's Foreign Minister Says
    UK May Face Several Concurrent Crises Amid End of Brexit Transition, Leaked Report Says
    Johnson Says Brexit Progress Rests on EU's Acceptance of UK's Fishing Access Control
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    London, Brussels, withdrawal, trade, Brexit, UK
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