Johnson warns post-Brexit trade deal is ‘far from certain’

Boris Johnson has warned that it is "far from certain" that Britain will manage to get a post-Brexit trade deal with Brussels in time for the end of the year.

The Prime Minister briefed the Cabinet – meeting by conference call – on the latest negotiations, telling ministers that time was now "very short".

Talks have been continuing this week in Brussels between the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart Lord Frost.

However with hopes of a breakthrough this week receding, it is unclear whether the two sides will be prepared to carry on talking into next week if there is still no agreement.

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Pictures of the week: November 15 - 21
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Pictures of the week: November 15 - 21
People walk in the rain past Christmas decorations in central London on November 20, 2020, as life under a second lockdown continues in England. - The current lockdown in England has shuttered restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops and services until December 2, with hopes business could resume in time for Christmas. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
LEIGH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Manchester United goalkeeper Emily Ramsey celebrates with team mates Millie Turner and Jackie Groenen after winning the penalty shoot out at the FA Women's Continental League Cup match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Leigh Sports Village on November 19, 2020 in Leigh, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Visionhaus)
View of a closed exit on London Underground as one way system is adopted. Empty trains, Empty platforms and Empty tunnels on the London Underground as the Second Covid-19 Lockdown in England severely reduce travel in the capital. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
People walk in the rain past Christmas decorations in central London on November 20, 2020, as life under a second lockdown continues in England. - The current lockdown in England has shuttered restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops and services until December 2, with hopes business could resume in time for Christmas. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Shoppers walk past black Friday sale posters in the centre of Cardiff where shops are open and people are out in numbers taking advantage of buying nonessential items in the run-up to Christmas. Restrictions across Wales have been relaxed following a two-week "firebreak" lockdown. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
PlayStation symbols are used on the Oxford Circus Tube station platforms. Signs at London's Oxford Circus Underground entrances have been transformed into Sony PlayStation Symbols and several Tube stations have been renamed for 48 hours to mark the launch of the new PlayStation 5. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A pedestrian walks past Christmas shop decorations in Mayfair during a second lockdown in London, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Businesses that have been forced to shut are hoping they will be able to reopen to salvage something of the crucial holiday shopping season. The government has been reluctant to say what restrictions will be in place for any particular area when the lockdown ends and says it's still too early to see how the lockdown has worked. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Runners kick up the ground as they round a bend at Wincanton Racecourse, southwest England, Thursday Nov. 19, 2020. Many areas of England have suffered heavy rainfall over recent days. (Alan Crowhurst/PA via AP)
A christmas tree lines the route through the arcade. London's Luxury Shopping destination, the Burlington Arcade in Piccadilly, now has its usual high quality Christmas decorations on display, despite being in lockdown, none of its stores can currently be opened. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
EDITORIAL USE ONLY Specially designed artwork is unveiled at Lancaster Gate station, which has been transformed into Ratchet and Clankaster Gate to celebrate the UK launch of PlayStation 5, on Thursday, as PlayStation UK teams up with Transport for London for a 48-hour takeover.
A woman wearing a protective face mask walks on the empty Millennium Bridge with City of London in the background. Most places and businesses have closed as the second month-long national lockdown takes hold in England. (Photo by Vuk Valcic / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
BOREHAMWOOD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18: Tottenham Hotspur team look on during the penalty shoot out during the FA Women's Continental League Cup match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Meadow Park on November 18, 2020 in Borehamwood, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)
London Underground signs at Oxford Circus have been transformed into Sony PlayStation Symbols to celebrate the release of the brand new PlayStation 5 on the 19th of November 2020. (Photo by Brett Cove / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Vegetation grows between unused black cabs parked in a large area of farmland in Epping Forest, which is being rented by GB Taxi Services to store their large fleet of London taxis that are no longer being used due to a severe drop in demand as coronavirus restrictions continue to reduce travel and office working. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
People from Centre for Bio-ethical Reform UK (CBR UK), launching a new campaign focusing on Health Secretary Matt Hancock entitled #HancocksHealthcare outside Downing Street, London.
A queue of black cabs outside Victoria Station, London. London taxi drivers are facing long waits for a single fare after the industry has seen a severe drop in demand as coronavirus restrictions continue to reduce travel and office working. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
Workers put up Christmas lights in George Square in Glasgow. Parts of the west of Scotland could move into Level 4 restrictions later this week, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to announce her decision later today. Under the toughest restrictions, non-essential shops will be closed, along with bars, restaurants, hairdressers and visitor attractions, whilst schools remain open (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images)
Forestry England works supervisor Steve Orton works on a felled 43ft Sitka Spruce tree in Northumberland's Kielder Forest. The 30 year old spruce was selected from amongst the over 150 million trees in Kielder Forest to stand in Parliament Square, London, this Christmas. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Members of the public on Buchanan Street in Glasgow. Parts of the west of Scotland could move into Level 4 restrictions later this week, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to announce her decision later today. Under the toughest restrictions, non-essential shops will be closed, along with bars, restaurants, hairdressers and visitor attractions, whilst schools remain open (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 17, 2020 - A Christmas fairground is pictured in the process of being assembled outside Cardiff Castle ahead of its opening on Thursday 19th November. PHOTOGRAPH BY Mark Hawkins / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Mark Hawkins/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon prepares to make a statement on the coronavirus pandemic to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, Tuesday Nov. 17, 2020. Scotland's 11 of its 32 local authorities, including Glasgow, will be placed into its highest tier of coronavirus restrictions. The restrictions are set to run from Friday until Dec. 11. (Russell Cheyne/PA via AP)
Funeral director Andrew Atkins wears PPE as he disinfects a hearse at Full Circle Funerals in Bramley, Leeds, who works alongside funeral director Sarah Jones, who is preparing for a second wave of Covid-related deaths, and has used the experiences of professionals in the industry to create a guide to help support bereaved people. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Russia's Daniil Medvedev returns against Germany's Alexander Zverev in their men's singles round-robin match on day two of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on November 16, 2020. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
ESSEX - NOVEMBER 16: A sign displays social distancing measures on a train station platform on November 16, 2020 in Essex, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
A woman walks past a Hollister Store. (Photo by Michael McNerney / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
DUNFERMLINE, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 16: A grey squirrel sits on a tree root in Pittencrieff Park, on November 16, 2020 in Dunfermline, Scotland. (Photo by Ken Jack/Getty Images)
The Regent Street Christmas lights entitled 'The Spirit of Christmas' stand illuminated after being switched on yesterday without a ceremony as shops on the street lie temporarily closed due to England's second coronavirus lockdown, in London, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. This week saw Britain on Wednesday become the fifth country in the world to record more than 50,000 coronavirus-related deaths and on Thursday to record 33,470 people testing positive for COVID-19, the highest daily number of new cases since the virus first struck. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Brighton and Hove Albion's Felicity Gibbons, left, and West Ham United's Alisha Lehmann are caught in sunlight, competing for a header during their Women's Super League soccer match at Chigwell Construction Stadium, in London, Sunday Nov. 15, 2020. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)
CWMBRAN, WALES - NOVEMBER 16: A general view of the early morning start at the Grange University Hospital, where the photographer works transporting non-emergency patients, on November 13, 2020 in Cwmbran, Wales. The £350m hospital will provide services including accident and emergency, intensive care and major surgery to patients living across Gwent and south Powys in South Wales. It has opened 4 months ahead of schedule, as the NHS faces a second wave of coronavirus cases. (Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)
Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies of Germany, in action against Croatia's Nikola Mektic and Netherland's Wesley Koolhof, during their doubles match on day one of the ATP Finals tennis championship at The O2 Arena, London, Sunday Nov. 15, 2020. (John Walton/PA via AP)
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The current Brexit transition period ends at the end of the year when Britain will finally leave the single market and the customs union and any deal would have to be ratified by both the UK and European parliaments before then.

In London, officials sought to downplay reports that Lord Frost had advised Mr Johnson that he could expect to get a deal early next week.

The Prime Minister told the Cabinet that while he remained "keen" to get an agreement he would not compromise on the UK's "core principles".

He said there were still "significant issues" to be resolved – most notably on future fishing rights and the so-called "level playing field" rules on state aid.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The PM said that his position hasn't changed: the UK is keen to secure a deal with the EU, but not at the cost of our core principles around sovereignty and control over our laws, borders, money – and our fish.

"Significant issues remain, particularly on the so-called level playing field and fisheries. We are working hard to find solutions which fully respect UK sovereignty, but it is far from certain that an agreement will prove possible and time is now very short.

"The PM said that, if we cannot find suitable compromises with our European friends, we will leave the transition period on Australia terms on January 1.

"The PM said he was incredibly confident that the UK will thrive with or without a free trade agreement with the EU."

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