EU to give Britain Brexit lifeline by offering to ratify trade deal after New Year deadline

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen - Credit: Twitter

EU member states could ratify a Brexit deal after the end of the transition period to avoid a no-deal scenario, officials have been told.

Brussels is considering allowing any trade pact with the UK to be ratified after the event to avoid the chaos of a no-deal Brexit.

European Commission secretary general Ilze Juhansone told officials from the 27 member states that a trade deal with Britain was 95% complete, although differences still remained on the key issues of fisheries, governance, and "level playing field" provisions.

Commission president Ursula von der Leyen echoed those sentiments during an update on Brexit negotiations on Friday.

Speaking to the press, von der Leyen said: "After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress now we've seen in the past days better progress, more movement on important files and this is good.

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"We still of course have the three main difficult issues."

Von der Leyen said negotiators were able to resolve the issue of state aid and develop legal text but that "there was still a lot of work to do" before the end of the year.

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With just 41 days left, officials have floated proposals for an agreement to be provisionally implemented at the end of 2020 before getting sign-off from the parliaments of all member states and Westminster.

MORE: Brexit to result in new trade deals being put into force prior to MPs' scrutiny, admits trade minister

The believed cut-off for a deal is this coming Monday, leaving enough time for legal documents to be translated and scrutinised by officials from across the EU.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said: "We have been clear that we want to reach a free trade agreement as soon as possible. That has been our position throughout the negotiations and it remains our position."

Negotiations have continued via video link after face-to-face discussions were halted on Thursday after a member of the EU team close to chief negotiator Michel Barnier tested positive for Covid-19.

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