Brexit: EU’s Ursula von der Leyen says there is a ‘path to an agreement’

There is a “path” to a Brexit trade deal being agreed before the end of the month, the president of the European Commission has said.

“As things stand, I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not,” Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Brussels.

“But I can tell you that there is a path to an agreement now. The path may be very narrow but it is there.”

Britain left the EU at the end of January and entered into an 11-month transition period, following EU rules and regulations whilst trying to negotiate a free trade deal by the end of this year

The two teams have been attempting to thrash out an agreement ahead of that deadline, although negotiations have continued to remain stuck on a number of issues.

Ms von der Leyen indicated that fishing rights remains a key sticking point, but suggested progress had been made on the so-called “level playing field”, measures designed to prevent unfair competition through lowering standards or using state subsidies.

“We have found a way forward on most issues but two issues still remain outstanding: the level playing field and fisheries,” she continued.

“I am glad to report that issues linked to governance now have largely been resolved. The next days are going to be decisive.”

On fisheries, Ms von der Leyen told the parliament “the discussion is still very difficult” and it sometimes felt as if “we will not be able to resolve these questions”, but she vowed to continue to negotiate.

Her remarks were reflected on financial markets as the pound gained half a cent against the US dollar.

Sterling hit $1.35 – continuing its recovery from lows of $1.31 last week when the talks looked to be heading towards a no-deal outcome.

Shares were also higher with the FTSE 100 and domestic-focused FTSE 250 up by more than 1%.

The European Commission president held talks with Boris Johnson on Sunday, with the pair agreeing to “go the extra mile” and continue discussions.

A UK government source said on Monday that the talks “remain difficult” and “have not made significant progress in recent days”.

Despite the two sides agreeing to continue discussions, the prime minister has described no-deal as the “most likely” scenario.

Mr Johnson has insisted that Britain can thrive in this scenario.

But opponents say having to trade on World Trade Organisation terms from 1 January would cause problems for business and push up prices for consumers.

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