16:30 GMT28 January 2021
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    Last weekend, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to extend Brexit negotiations on a trade deal, although the sides remain at odds over such issues as governance, fishing rights, and the set of rules to "level the playing field" for businesses.

    The House of Commons' Brexit Committee has expressed concern about "the overall state of readiness" for the end of the Brexit transition period as the UK and the EU are still trying to conclude a trade deal.

    "It is important that the government engages fully with the devolved governments and has robust contingency plans to deal with whatever happens after 1 January", the MPs underscored in a report published on Saturday.

    The report noted that Downing Street had made key infrastructure decisions "too late" and that communication with businesses has been "patchy at best".

    In addition, "the fallback systems for exchanging data are slower and more cumbersome", while police may be forced to use "slower and more cumbersome" systems, according to the document.

    Brexit Committee chairman Hilary Benn of the Labour Party, for his part, blamed the government for failing to "provide business, traders, and citizens with certainty about what will happen in all the areas affected by the [London-Brussels] negotiations".

    He warned that "with just seven working days until the end of the transition period, significant concerns remain".

    "At this late stage, the government must be ready to implement contingency plans where necessary to mitigate the effects of any disruption. Failure to do so would mean the worst possible start to the new year for many people and businesses who are already experiencing the toughest of times", the MP added.

    Johnson on EU-UK Talks: 'Things Looking Difficult'

    Benn's remarks followed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitting in a statement on Friday that "things are looking difficult" as the UK and the EU continue talks on a Brexit trade deal.

    "Obviously the UK's position is always that we want to keep talking if there's any chance of a deal. But we've also got to recognise that the UK's got to be able to control its own laws, it's what people voted for, and we've also got to be able to control our waters and fishing rights", he pointed out, adding that Britain's "door is open".

    The prime minister underlined that London has "done a lot to try and help" resolve the Brexit gridlock and it is the EU that should "see sense and come to the table with something themselves".

    "I think we've just got to get through this period and look to all the opportunities that will open up to this country in 2021", Johnson added, referring to a possible no-deal Brexit scenario. According to him, although a possible no-deal Brexit "may be difficult at first", it will not keep the UK from prospering "mightily" at the end of the day.

    Barnier Warns of 'Very Narrow Path' to Trade Deal

    Johnson spoke as EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that there are only a few hours left for the bloc and the UK to strike an agreement, adding that the possibility of a Brexit deal "is here".

    "It's the moment of truth. We have very little time remaining, just a few hours to work through these negotiations in a useful fashion if we want this agreement to enter into force on the first of January. There is a chance of getting an agreement but the path to such an agreement is very narrow", Barnier told the European Parliament.

    He called it "a moment of truth", saying that Brussels is asking to preserve the EU's values and the single market, and that it would not be fair if European fishermen have no transitory rights in British waters.

    Late last week, Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to extend negotiations on the UK-EU trade deal beyond the self-imposed 13 December deadline.

    The sides currently remain at loggerheads over a whole array of issues, including the EU's access to UK fishing grounds, post-Brexit governance, and so-called "level playing field" issue, which stipulates that neither party will gain an unfair advantage.

    In January, the UK officially withdrew from the EU and entered an 11-month transition period, scheduled to expire on 31 December. During the transition, Britain was expected to negotiate a trade deal with the bloc but an agreement has yet to be signed.


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