EU and UK to resume talks next week as time starts to run out for a trade deal

EU and UK negotiators are to resume talks next week in Brussels with time running out for agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Downing Street said there had been “useful discussions” during the course of informal talks this week but that there were still differences over some “important issues”.

Earlier, the lead negotiators Michel Barnier and Lord Frost met again on Friday for face-to-face discussions in London.

Boris Johnson has said he wants agreement on a free trade deal by the time of next week’s EU summit in the Belgian capital on Thursday.

The Prime Minister has indicated he will walk away from the negotiating table if there is not a deal at that point arguing that otherwise it would be too late to implement before the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year.

Both sides have, however, acknowledged there are still obstacles to be overcome – including on the key issues of fisheries and state aid.

A No 10 spokesman confirmed that informal discussions would resume in Brussels next week.

“We have had useful discussions this week,” the spokesman said.

“Progress has been made in some areas, however there still remains differences on some important issues but we remain committed to trying to agree a FTA (free trade agreement).

“We continue to want an agreement, we continue to want an FTA but it is important that we can agree on some issues.”

The latest talks come after Mr Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed at the weekend to intensify negotiations in a final push for an agreement.

Speaking in Dublin on Thursday, the European Council president Charles Michel said they had reached a critical stage.

“The coming days are crucial, this is the moment of truth,” he said.

“I have been very clear with Prime Minister Johnson. It’s now for the UK to restore trust and to put all its cards on the table.

“The EU is doing its utmost to find an agreement with the UK, but not at any cost.”