ENTERTAINMENT

The EU will not press the emergency plans for any deals at the crunch summit


What are the EU's no-deal contingency plans?

Air travel and security

Air traffic will be "interrupted" if, at the end of the transition period, no emergency measures are taken for air traffic, the Commission said.

A measure has been proposed to allow certain flight services between the UK and the EU to be available for six months.

It would allow UK air carriers to fly over the block without landing, make layovers for non-traffic purposes, and operate scheduled and unscheduled international passenger and cargo services between points in the UK and points in the EU.

The Commission has also proposed measures to ensure that various product safety certificates can still be used on EU aircraft to stop aircraft from being grounded.

Road freight

Basic road freight and road passenger connections would also remain in place for six months as long as they are reciprocal.

Separate rules, if approved by EU member states, would keep the Channel Tunnel's road and rail links open for two months until the UK and France agree new safety and surveillance certificates.

Without a trade deal and regulation, the underwater link between France and Britain would be suspended.

fishing

The Commission also said it was proposing to put in place "the appropriate legal framework for" mutual access by EU and UK vessels to the waters after December 31, 2020 "- or until a" fisheries agreement is reached with the UK has been ".

The idea seems to be in return for reducing the UK impact in other areas.

The standard legal position on January 1st is that EU fleets will not have access to UK waters.

Support for EU companies

The EU has confirmed proposals for a Brexit adjustment reserve of five billion euros to help companies adapt.

France trolled Britain that it was "ready" for no deal today when Brexiteers accused Ursula von der Leyen of "blackmail" after pressing the button for the EU's contingency plans – and increasingly called on panicked member states not to ask for "side deals" do. with Great Britain.

As both sides marginalized trade negotiations, Emmanuel Macron deliberately dispatched high-level ministers to see new agreements at the Eurostar terminal in Paris. European Minister Clement Beaune said that "our preparations are in full swing".

Tensions rose again when the Commission President warned the situation was "difficult" after a three-hour dinner with Boris Johnson last night failed to make progress.

When Ms. von der Leyen arrived today for a Brussels summit, she insisted that the heads of state or government will discuss the situation later, after a “final” Sunday had been set to resolve the disputes over level playing field, fishing rights and Enclose enforcement.

The Commission has published contingency plans. Tories complained about an offer to smoothly disrupt freight and air traffic in exchange for constant access to British waters.

The rules would mean that aviation safety measures would continue to be recognized to avoid grounding planes, and air carriers would still be able to fly over both areas.

Basic road freight and road passenger connections would also remain in place for six months as long as they are reciprocal. Separate rules, if approved by EU member states, would keep the Channel Tunnel's road and rail links open for two months until the UK and France agree new safety and surveillance certificates.

In an obvious compromise, however, the Commission said it was proposing "to put in place the appropriate legal framework" to ensure "mutual access of EU and UK vessels to the waters after 31 December 2020" – or until a "fisheries agreement" with the UK "has been closed".

Currently, EU fleets will not have access to UK territorial waters after December 31st. The idea was quickly rejected by Downing Street, despite reports that the Commission has suggested that it be treated separately from the other proposals.

The documents also include a plea for increasingly troubled states not to conclude ancillary agreements with Great Britain that could mitigate the effects and “fragment” the internal market.

Tory MP David Jones, one of the leaders of the influential Eurosceptic ERG group, told MailOnline: “The EU proposals confirm that they have still not come to terms with the fact that we are no longer a Member State.

“They propose agreements from which they benefit more than we do, but still demand that we respect their level playing field.

“They are asking for our fish and not offering anything substantial in return.

"This is outrageous behavior – almost blackmail – and our government should have nothing to do with it."

The plans came about when Dominic Raab accused the EU of disregarding "democracy" by demanding unacceptable concessions to the sovereignty of the UK.

During a round of interviews, Mr. Raab went into “scary stories” about food shortages.

He downplayed warnings that the public already had essential goods in stock.

"With regard to fishing, we have accepted that there must be a transition period, but we must be able to control access to our own waters," he said.

“We agreed that we would take the EU's approach to free trade agreements with countries like Canada and Korea on what is known as a level playing field.

"What we are not going to treat … is in a way that no other country would accept, nor would the EU.

“It's about a fundamental respect for democratic principles.

"We are ready to leave the transition period – we would very much prefer a deal, no stone is left unscathed – but otherwise we will successfully conclude Brexit according to Australian rules."

Mr Raab said he would "not categorically rule out further talks after Sunday, but it is" unlikely ".

Mr Johnson and EU Commissioner Usula von der Leyen spent more than three hours taking stock of the dire situation when they ate steamed turbot and scallops – the source of many skirmishes between British and French fishing boats – in the Belgian capital last night.

But the couple failed to find their way through the impasse and instead ordered Michel Barnier and Lord Frost to re-engage, provided that the plug would be pulled if there was no resolution by Sunday.

Despite the gloomy mood, there were hopes that the talks could still be saved if new political directions emerge from the meeting of EU leaders today and tomorrow.

But there are also fears that Emmanuel Macron – who is by no means considered the most hawkish – may see the summit as a platform for a De Gaulle-style "not" moment.

French diplomats have suggested that no deal will damage Britain so much that Mr Johnson will crawl back to the negotiating table within a few months.

However, Downing Street has flatly ruled out further negotiations in 2021 if that round fails.

Ursula von der Leyen was seen today at the EU summit in conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron (left)

Ms von der Leyen released the EU's no-deal plans today as tensions with the UK mount before the end of the transition period

Ms von der Leyen released the EU's no-deal plans today as tensions with the UK mount before the end of the transition period

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen appeared to be in a happy mood ahead of their meeting in Brussels - but there was no movement in the trade talks

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen appeared to be in a happy mood ahead of their meeting in Brussels – but there was no movement in the trade talks

The dead end in Brexit continues today, despite the latest diplomacy from Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, pictured in Brussels last night

The dead end in Brexit continues today, despite the latest diplomacy from Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, pictured in Brussels last night

As the leaders posed for pictures, Ms. von der Leyen reminded him of the need for social distancing - with Brussels amid a tough coronavirus lockdown

As the leaders posed for pictures, Ms. von der Leyen reminded him of the need for social distancing – with Brussels amid a tough coronavirus lockdown

In an apparent letter of intent, French Minister for Europe Clement Beaune (left) and Minister for Public Finance Olivier Dussopt (center) have been sent to Gare du Nord station in Paris, where Eurostar trains from London are arriving, to oversee preparations

In an apparent letter of intent, French Minister for Europe Clement Beaune (left) and Minister for Public Finance Olivier Dussopt (center) have been sent to Gare du Nord station in Paris, where Eurostar trains from London are arriving, to oversee preparations

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen take off their masks as they meet in the Berlaymont building at EU headquarters in Brussels

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen take off their masks as they meet in the Berlaymont building at EU headquarters in Brussels

Ms von der Leyen did not publish any contingency plans today, which is another sign that the crisis is worsening

Ms von der Leyen did not publish any contingency plans today, which is another sign that the crisis is worsening

Is something fishy going on? The EU serves a seafood dominated dinner with scallops and turbot in the row of fishing rights

Fish has proven to be one of the toughest parts of a Brexit trade deal for the negotiating teams, but it was served on a plate to Boris Johnson during the crunch talks in Brussels.

The Prime Minister was having a starter with scallops and a main course with steamed turbot when he met with EU Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen.

The two leaders were joined by their negotiators and officials for a three-course meal in the Berlaymont building to break the impasse in the lengthy trade deals.

Negotiations on fishing rights have stalled, among other things, and the Commission's menu is seen by some as a deliberate gesture, but by others as a sign that it has a sense of humor.

Mr. Johnson and Mrs. von der Leyen were given pumpkin soup and scallops to start with, followed by a main course of steamed turbot, mashed potatoes with wasabi and vegetables.

For pudding, they ate Pavlova with exotic fruits and coconut sorbet, but the commission stopped serving the Eton Mess – presumably from the Prime Minister's alma mater.

The starter could bring back memories of the 'Scallop Wars' in 2018 when British and French fishing fleets clashed over access to fishing grounds in the Baie de Seine.

But the fish menu is sure to remind Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen of the headaches they face if they reach an agreement on access to UK waters after December 31st.

Mr Raab said the prime minister would "leave no stone unturned" in finding a deal, but that "significant differences" remain.

He told Sky News: “We will not sacrifice the fundamental points of democracy regarding fishing and control over our laws when we leave the transition period.

"I think it is important that this is recognized on the EU side, and if so, I think that the scope for an agreement is still open."

But "to be honest, we haven't seen enough pragmatism and flexibility on the EU side".

The foreign minister tried to downplay the impact on food prices, but admitted there would be "bumps along the road".

Tesco chairman John Allan suggested that food bills could rise by as much as 5 percent due to tariffs and the suspension of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Raab told the BBC, "I don't think we see that number" and tariffs are a "very small part" of food prices.

He said, “Of all the things that will be challenging, I don't worry about whether the supermarket cabinets are empty or the cost of groceries.

“There will also be some bumps on the road if we don't get a free trade agreement. That is the inevitable consequence of change.

"But we will be well prepared and prepared to deal with these, and we will manage to successfully exit the transition period, whatever may come."

Mr Raab admitted that EU regulations on coronavirus for travel from third countries could bother the British.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today program: “Covid restrictions depend on the combination of decisions made by the EU, but also by the member states.

"With that we already have challenges and we have introduced our own limitations."

He admitted that the coronavirus "remains a live problem and we need to make sure we are in control of it".

"I fear that the travel restriction will inevitably be checked over and over again."

When asked if that would mean Brits would have trouble getting to mainland Europe, he said, "It all depends on the spread of the virus in these continental European countries."

When the heads of state and government came to the summit in Brussels, Ms. von der Leyen said: “I had a very long conversation with Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night.

& # 39; It was a good conversation, but it's difficult. We are ready to give our British friends access to the single market – it is the largest single market in the world.

& # 39; But the conditions have to be fair. They have to be fair to our employees and to our companies, and this balance of fairness has not yet been achieved. & # 39;

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he was "grimmer" about the prospect of an agreement.

"It is a difficult situation," he said when he arrived at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

Mr. Lofven said: “I'm a little bit gloomy today. As far as I can hear, no progress has been made in the past few days.

“Of course that's problematic, so that's a big challenge.

"We have always said that we prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

The emergency plans of the Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda must be "implementable from the first minute".

Ireland's Prime Minister Micheal Martin said an agreement was "within reach".

& # 39; Getting a trade deal makes sense. I am very aware of the difficulties related to a level playing field, dispute settlement mechanism and fisheries, ”he said.

“I didn't expect a breakthrough last night. I think the fact that they met for an extended period of time and that an open exchange of views is a good thing in itself, and the fact that the negotiators are tasked with going back in and trying to get out of the traffic jam. & # 39;

In an apparent letter of intent, French Minister for Europe Clement Beaune and Minister for Public Finance Olivier Dussopt have been sent to Gare du Nord station in Paris, where Eurostar trains are arriving from London, to oversee the preparations.

"We are ready," said Beaune, one of Macron's most combative ministers on Brexit. "We will of course check by the last hour of the last day whether our preparations have been made and whether we are ready for this change, which will definitely take place on January 1st."

Mr Dussopt said 600 additional customs officers had been hired, including at Gare du Nord, to sort out the situation after January 1.

The Gare du Nord will be the exit point from the European Union, the exit point from the internal market. Great Britain will become an independent country, ”he explained.

He said in a change from current practice that all passports will be stamped, that passports rather than IDs will now be required to travel between France and the UK, and that French customs officers will be on cross-channel trains to carry out checks.

Ms. von der Leyen unveiled the no-deal proposals, saying the EU must "be prepared for no deal to come off on January 1st".

In today's EU plans, it was proposed to maintain "certain air services" between the UK and the EU for up to six months, provided that London ensures this.

Aviation safety measures would continue to be recognized to avoid grounding aircraft.

The measures would allow airlines to continue flying over each other's territories, making stopovers and providing services.

Basic road freight and road passenger connections would also remain in place for six months as long as they are reciprocal. Separate rules, if approved by EU member states, would keep the Channel Tunnel's road and rail links open for two months until the UK and France agree new safety and surveillance certificates.

Ms. von der Leyen spoke to Angela Merkel (left), another important ruler, at the summit in Brussels today

Ms. von der Leyen spoke to Angela Merkel (left), another important ruler, at the summit in Brussels today

In a round of interviews today, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab condemned the EU for demanding unacceptable concessions to the UK's sovereignty. He said that progress in trade talks can only be made if they are "more pragmatic and flexible".

In a round of interviews today, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab condemned the EU for demanding unacceptable concessions to the UK's sovereignty. He said that progress in trade talks can only be made if they are "more pragmatic and flexible".

Without a trade deal and regulation, the underwater link between France and Britain would be suspended.

The Commission also said it was proposing to put in place "the appropriate legal framework for" mutual access by EU and UK vessels to the waters after December 31, 2020 "- or until a" fisheries agreement is reached with the UK has been ".

And it confirmed proposals for a Brexit adjustment reserve of five billion euros to help EU businesses adapt.

What are the sticking points in the Brexit talks?

FISHING

The UK has insisted that it regain control of its coastal waters from the end of the transition period.

However, the EU called for its fleets to maintain their previous access levels – with Emmanuel Macron under particular pressure from the French fishing industry.

First, the UK said it would reclaim 80 percent of EU quotas from January 1.

However, Brussels suggested restoring just 18 percent.

The two sides are believed to be near a "landing zone" that has a transition period of perhaps five or seven years. However, there is still no agreement.

LEVEL PLAY FIELD

The EU has insisted that the UK commit to a level playing field rules to ensure that companies with lower environmental standards and regulations are not undercut.

State aid has emerged as a particular problem, especially as the coronavirus is making parts of the economy unprofitable.

However, the UK says it needs to regain sovereign powers to make rules, even though it has no plans to lower standards or distort competition by subsidizing the private sector.

It appeared that this area was close to being resolved last week before France reportedly put a number of additional conditions in place, including huge penalties for breaking the rules.

While the UK is happy with the "non-regression" – which means that current standards are accepted as a basis – it has rejected calls for future compliance with the bloc's rules.

GUIDE

Getting a deal done and who decides whether to break rules has been a focus from the start.

The exemption from the European Court of Justice was one of the Brexiter's greatest demands from the referendum.

However, the EU has tried to maintain control of governance and insist on harsh fines and punitive tariffs for violations.

The situation was inflamed by the dispute over the UK's Single Market Act, which gives ministers the power to override the previous Brexit divorce terms to prevent deadlocks between the UK and Northern Ireland.

Critics say this demonstrated why enforcement mechanisms need to be effective – which is why ministers felt it was important to resolve the problem.

Downing Street said it would consider the proposals. However, the Prime Minister's spokesman added: “I think, as we said during the negotiations, after the transition period we will regain control of our waters.

"We would never accept agreements and access to fishing waters in the UK that are incompatible with our status as an independent coastal state."

Former Chancellor Lord Lamont said the idea of ​​arranging mutual access without a trade deal was "exceptional". He told Sky News that the legal position is that "as of January 1st, the EU will not have access to our fishing waters".

The EU Commission also sent the clear message that individual member states are not allowed to enter into secondary deals with the UK and warned that this could “fragment or undermine” the internal market.

"A core principle of national measures should be that they are temporary," the documents say.

A second principle is that the UK should not derive similar benefits from such measures offered by the union in the negotiations on the future agreement.

“National measures should also take into account the overriding priority relating to the Union's relationship with a third country in order to preserve the integrity of the internal market, limit the risk of fragmentation and avoid unequal treatment of the Member States.

“In any case, national measures of any kind must comply with EU law, including the principle of honest cooperation.

The Commission added: “The EU as a whole has more bargaining power than any Member State that acts alone. This bargaining power benefits all Member States. It has to be used to ensure a level playing field between the EU and the UK. "

As the markets digested the news, JPMorgan cut the chances of a trade deal from 66 percent to 60 percent, saying the odds could drop below 50 percent if progress is not made soon.

Citi warned that the chances of a deal have dropped significantly, although it still believes a deal is the more likely outcome.

JPMorgan analyst Malcolm Barr said deadlines had come and gone earlier and negotiations could continue beyond Sunday.

"But the need to prepare for regime change from 'no deal' is urgent, and taking such action alongside the talks increases the feeling that the two sides are 'going through the proposals' rather than reaching out to an agreement Barr said in a note to customers.

"If no significant progress is made towards an agreement by the end of the weekend, the chances of a deal will fall below 50 percent."

Concerns about diminishing opportunities were also felt in the currency markets, where the pound was down 1 percent, and in the equity markets, where bank share prices fell sharply.

Business groups also expressed concern about the deteriorating outlook.

Allie Renison, senior policy advisor at the Institute of Directors, said: “Business leaders will be concerned about the apparent lack of progress.

& # 39; Even at this late stage, having a deal is critical to reducing disruption and uncertainty. Both sides have to strain every tendon to find a way forward. & # 39;

Make UK, Scottish Engineering and Manufacturing, Northern Ireland, said in a joint statement: & # 39; After over four years of uncertainty, UK manufacturers are now facing the toughest start to the New Year as they face a pandemic and risk having no trade agreement is our largest market.

"A no-deal would be disastrous for UK manufacturers, a sector that helped the nation through the Covid crisis."

Richard Burge, General Manager of the London Chamber of Commerce, said: "The government needs to take into account the emerging crisis in our ports and the emerging impact of Brexit on our businesses and supply chains."

TUC Secretary General Frances O & # 39; Grady said: "The Conservative Manifesto pledged to 'make Britain the best place to work in the world'.

“So the Prime Minister can certainly work to ensure that workers' rights in the UK are at least as good as in the EU.

& # 39; We need a lot. He has to go on. & # 39;

Josh Hardie, assistant director general of the CBI, said, “Moving deadlines is already costing companies. So it is important to get a contract in place to protect businesses, jobs and living standards across Europe that are already affected by the pandemic.

"Progress relies on political leadership, which is needed now more than ever to avoid a costly, harmful and divisive no-deal scenario."

Government sources confirmed that Lord Frost and Mr Barnier will resume talks in the Belgian capital today to resolve the outstanding issues.

In a grim assessment last night, a No. 10 source said Mr. Johnson "does not want to leave any path to a potential deal untested". "The Prime Minister and Ursula von der Leyen had an open discussion about the major obstacles that remain in the negotiations," the source said.

“There are very large gaps between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged. The Prime Minister and Ms. von der Leyen agreed to hold further talks between their negotiating teams over the next few days.

& # 39; The Prime Minister does not want to leave any route to a potential deal untested. The Prime Minister and Ms. von der Leyen agreed that a firm decision on the future of the talks should be made by Sunday. & # 39;

Ms. von der Leyen said in a statement: “We had a lively and interesting discussion on the state of affairs on open issues. We understand each other's positions.

& # 39; They stay far apart. The teams should meet again immediately to try to resolve these issues. We will make a decision by the end of the weekend. & # 39;

Mr Barnier and Mr Frost argued unsuccessfully for months over access to UK waters, level playing field and enforcement, and finally admitted earlier this week that they could make no further progress.

Mr Johnson set the tone for the showdown yesterday by telling MPs that no prime minister could accept EU demands, including compliance with future and current rules.

In a bullish upbeat performance at PMQs, Mr Johnson said the UK would "thrive mightily" with or without an agreement – although the Office of Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) has suggested that the breakdown of talks would save 2 percent of GDP next year.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey has warned that the long-term damage from resorting to World Trade Organization terms would be worse than the economic blow from the coronavirus.

Tory MPs urged Mr Johnson to hold onto his guns and insisted that his promise to regain control and put sovereignty first must not be sacrificed in order to get a deal. But Sir Keir Starmer accused the prime minister of botched negotiations and swiped: "Secure the deal, prime minister. You promised. & # 39;

Cabinet Secretary Robert Jenrick got into crisis last night telling ITV's Peston that although there had been "good discussions" between the Prime Minister and Mrs von der Leyen, there were still "very important areas of disagreement" and that this was "No clear movement" had been in the right direction & # 39 ;.

The Housing Secretary said, “From the conversations I had with the Prime Minister's team tonight, it appears that there are still very important areas of disagreement.

"So I don't want to give false hope, but he came to the conclusion with Ursula von der Leyen that we should bring the teams back together in the coming days and they will work hard to see if there is a way to go by Sunday in front there. "

Buyers "could face fresh food shortages after Brexit"

Buyers could face temporary shortages of fresh food and price increases if the UK fails to sign a trade deal with the European Union, Tesco chairman warned.

John Allan also said shoppers could turn to buying UK-made items if imported goods rise in price due to import taxes.

He said the BBC import taxes could increase the price of brie by 40 percent and mean UK buyers are opting for cheddar cheese instead.

Mr Allan warned that in the event of a no-deal scenario, food bills could increase by an average of 5%, with certain products likely to increase significantly more.

Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said Thursday he was "not concerned" about possible price hikes or food shortages if the government fails to reach a trade deal.

But Mr Allan insisted that upcoming tariffs will raise prices.

He told Bloomberg, "These will almost inevitably lead to higher prices, and I think if we go out without a deal, that's inevitable."

He warned that there could be disruptions during the transition period that could affect the transport of some food and lead to empty shelves.

Mr. Allan said, “We may see a shortage of fresh food, especially fresh food with a short shelf life.

“I think this will only be for a limited time, maybe a month or two before we get back to normal.

“I believe there is absolutely no reason for a consumer to panic or panic right now.

"There will still be plenty to eat in the UK – there may be limited choices for a period of time."

In addition to its grocery competitors, Tesco has stocked durable items in its warehouses in preparation for a no-deal.

Last month, Sainsbury raised concerns that shipments of some fish, dairy and meat products to its stores in Northern Ireland could be significantly reduced over the next year due to Brexit.

When asked if the UK is getting any closer to a deal, he said: "I think there was a good discussion but there was no clear move in the right direction."

Als Reaktion auf die Entwicklung twitterte Angela Rayner, stellvertretende Vorsitzende der Labour Party: „Ein Jahr nachdem Boris Johnson uns einen ofenfertigen Deal versprochen hatte, ist er völlig gescheitert. Das Versäumnis, den von ihm versprochenen Deal zu erfüllen, liegt bei ihm und ihm allein. & # 39;

Labours Schattenkanzlerin des Herzogtums Lancaster, Rachel Reeves, sagte: „Der Premierminister hat einen ofenfertigen Deal versprochen. Er muss es schaffen, damit wir uns auf das konzentrieren können, was für das britische Volk wichtig ist: die Sicherung unserer Wirtschaft, den Schutz unseres NHS und den Wiederaufbau unseres Landes. & # 39;

Ian Blackford, Führer der SNP Westminster, bezeichnete einen Brexit als einen massiven Misserfolg von Diplomatie und Führung welches @BorisJohnson übernehmen muss '.

Er twitterte:'Zusätzlich zu den gesundheitlichen und wirtschaftlichen Auswirkungen von Covid ist dies eine selbst verursachte Selbstverletzung. Handelsstörungen, Zölle, höhere Preise und verlorene Arbeitsplätze sind niemals einen Preis wert. & # 39;

Als Herr Johnson gestern Abend im Berlaymont-Gebäude ankam, wurde er von Frau von der Leyen an die Notwendigkeit sozialer Distanzierung erinnert – mit Brüssel inmitten einer harten Coronavirus-Sperre.

Als die beiden Führer vor den Kameras posierten, fragte der Premierminister, ob sie ihre Masken abnehmen würden. Der Kommissionspräsident stimmte zu, forderte Herrn Johnson jedoch auf, Abstand zu halten, während er kurz seine Gesichtsbedeckungen entfernte. Frau von der Leyen fügte hinzu: „Dann müssen wir es wieder anziehen. Du musst es sofort wieder anziehen. & # 39;

Der Premierminister antwortete und sagte: "Sie fahren hier ein dichtes Schiff, Ursula, und ganz richtig auch." Das Paar machte sich dann vor dem Abendessen auf den Weg zu einem Einzelgespräch.

Mit dem Premierminister und Frau von der Leyen saßen die Verhandlungsführer Barnier und Lord Frost sowie einige andere wichtige Beamte am Tisch.

The menu for such meals is always closely watched for clues about the host's mood and subtle jokes.

And this occasion was no exception, as two fish dishes appear to hint at the bitter dispute over fishing rights for British waters.

The starter was pumpkin soup and scallops; while the main was steamed turbot and mashed potatoes with wasabi and vegetables.

Desert was Pavolova with exotic fruits and coconut sorbet.

Im Unterhaus bestand Herr Johnson gestern darauf, dass trotz der zunehmend bitteren Pattsituation noch viel zu tun sei.

However, he made it clear that there must be movement on the EU side if a trade agreement is to be agreed and implemented before the “deadlock” transition period ends on December 31st.

Die von der EU-Kommission heute vorgelegten No-Deal-Pläne sollen Lastwagen und Flugzeuge am Himmel halten - sie haben jedoch auch ein faszinierendes Element in Bezug auf die Fischerei, was darauf hindeutet, dass der gegenseitige Zugang für ein weiteres Jahr fortgesetzt werden könnte

Die von der EU-Kommission heute vorgelegten No-Deal-Pläne sollen Lastwagen und Flugzeuge am Himmel halten – sie haben jedoch auch ein faszinierendes Element in Bezug auf die Fischerei, was darauf hindeutet, dass der gegenseitige Zugang für ein weiteres Jahr fortgesetzt werden könnte

Der Premierminister verließ gestern am späten Nachmittag die Downing Street, bevor er zusammen mit dem britischen Verhandlungsführer Lord Frost (links) in die belgische Hauptstadt flog.

Der Premierminister verließ gestern am späten Nachmittag die Downing Street, bevor er zusammen mit dem britischen Verhandlungsführer Lord Frost (links) in die belgische Hauptstadt flog.

"Our friends in the EU are currently insisting that they have the automatic right to punish us and take revenge if they pass a new law in the future that we do not comply with or that we do not follow in this country." Johnson told MPs.

Second, they say Britain should be the only country in the world that does not have sovereign control over its fishing waters. I don't think these are conditions that every prime minister of this country should accept. & # 39;

Earlier, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove warned that if the EU does not postpone the sticking points of the fishing rights, level playing field and enforcement of the agreement, Mr Johnson could end negotiations.

He suggested that the "glide path" had been eased by resolving another major dispute over the implementation of the original Brexit divorce terms.

But he insisted Britain will never bow to pressure over future rules and regulations – proposals that resurfaced dramatically last week after a renewed offensive by Michel Barnier and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr. Gove said the Prime Minister would later explain the "political realities" with Ms. von der Leyen.

As the pressure increased yesterday, Mr Barnier – who increasingly appeared to be an obstacle to an agreement – warned that the chances of a deal were "very slim".

Mr Johnson yesterday offered a significant olive branch by agreeing to scrap controversial laws that broke part of the original Brexit deal related to Northern Ireland.

The EU had announced that it would not sign an agreement if the legislation was retained.

Another major concession will allow the EU to deploy civil servants in Northern Ireland, a sticking point the UK had previously stuck to.

The DUP called it "unnecessary" and "worrying" while Brexiteers made it clear that they will be watching closely whether Mr Johnson steps out more ground to Ms. von der Leyen.

Who is Ursula von der Leyen, the EU leader who was once named as the successor to Angela Merkel?

Ursula von der Leyen took over the presidency of the European Commission from Jean-Claude Juncker in December 2019.

Since then, the beginning of her five-year term in office has been marked by two problems: Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

The 62-year-old is a staunch defender of the EU project and previously challenged the United States of Europe with its own army.

Before that, she was Defense Minister in Germany and was once considered a potential successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The mother of seven children experienced a rapid political rise and only entered politics in her forties.

She has a degree in medicine and studied at the London School of Economics and Stanford in the USA.

The qualified gynecologist appeared regularly in opinion polls as one of the most popular politicians in Germany before moving to Brussels.

She is the daughter of the Brussels-born Eurocrat Ernst Albrecht, a high-ranking German politician who worked in the EU Commission in the 1950s.

She revealed that last year In the 1970s, she spent a year in London, hiding from notorious German communist terrorists.

She spent 12 months in the "seething, international, colorful city" to avoid the Baader-Meinhof gang, a tough left wing group that carried out a number of bombing and assassination attacks.

Sie kam nach dem Studium in der deutschen Stadt Göttingen nach London. Die Polizei riet ihrem Vater, dem niedersächsischen Premierminister, sie wegzubringen.

Government sources, however, said large gaps remained between the two sides on key issues – warning that the prime minister could end negotiations if no progress was made.

Einer Quelle zufolge waren die beiden Seiten zu weit voneinander entfernt, als dass gestern Abend ein Deal zustande kommen könnte. However, Mr Johnson hopes the two leaders can identify a breakthrough that their negotiators can complete in the days to come.

"The goal is to unlock things so they can empower their teams to move on and solve the problems," the source said.

"But if they strike and make no progress, then that will be it – there is no point in going on."

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel sagte, sie glaube nicht, dass gestern klar sei, ob ein Deal zustande kommt.

"I don't think we'll know by tomorrow whether this will happen or not. At least I can't promise that, but we're still working on it," she told the Bundestag.

“But we are also prepared for conditions that we cannot accept. So if there are terms from the UK that we cannot accept, we will go our own way without an exit agreement. Because one thing is certain: the integrity of the internal market must be preserved. & # 39;

Ms. Merkel said the "big, tough question" was about the rules for compliance with future regulations. The EU fears that if the UK refuses to follow its standards, it will gain a competitive advantage.

"There are a number of complicated questions, mostly due to the handling of the dynamics," she said.

“We currently have more or less the same legal system, a harmonized legal system, but over the years legal systems will differ everywhere in terms of environmental law, labor law and health legislation.

“And how will the other side react if the legal situation in the European Union or in Great Britain changes? And we cannot just say that we will not talk about it, we need not only a level playing field for today but also for the days to come.

“To do this, we have to make agreements on how each side can react if the other changes its legal situation. Otherwise there will be unfair competitive conditions that we cannot do to our companies. & # 39;

In einer gestrigen Interviewrunde weigerte sich Herr Gove, eine prozentuale Chance für einen Deal zu geben.

"I am confident that the Prime Minister will be able to determine where exercise is required during dinner," he told Sky News.

"I hope that today's conversation between the Prime Minister and the President will provide further political impetus to ensure that we can reach an agreement."

Mr Gove insisted that the UK “hold the cards” in the talks with fishing rights and as the main buyer of EU goods. That's why the bloc tried to regain the advantage over the past week, he argued.

"I think the political realities he will share with Ursula von der Leyen tonight offer us the best chance of reaching an agreement," added Gove.

Boris Johnson verlässt gestern Abend das Berlaymont-Hauptquartier der EU-Kommission, nachdem er bei langen Gesprächen mit Ursula von der Leyen keinen Durchbruch erzielt hatte

Boris Johnson verlässt gestern Abend das Berlaymont-Hauptquartier der EU-Kommission, nachdem er bei langen Gesprächen mit Ursula von der Leyen keinen Durchbruch erzielt hatte

Boris Johnson kommt nach seinem dreistündigen Abendessen mit Ursula von der Leyen in Brüssel wieder in der britischen Botschaft an

Boris Johnson kommt nach seinem dreistündigen Abendessen mit Ursula von der Leyen in Brüssel wieder in der britischen Botschaft an

Boris Johnson geht aus einem Flugzeug, nachdem er aus Brüssel bei der RAF Northolt in der Nähe von London angekommen ist

Boris Johnson geht aus einem Flugzeug, nachdem er aus Brüssel bei der RAF Northolt in der Nähe von London angekommen ist

Is a Canadian-style pact off the table?

Boris Johnson embarked on a trade agreement with the EU based on Canada earlier this year.

In February, the Prime Minister highlighted the EU's offer to sign either a Norwegian-style single market agreement or a looser Canadian-style agreement, adding: “We have made our choice. We want a comprehensive free trade agreement, similar to that of Canada. & # 39;

The agreement between the EU and Canada, signed in 2016 after seven years of talks, raised tariffs on 98 percent of goods and increased trade quotas. Although goods exported to the EU must meet their standards, Canada is not required to follow the bloc's rules.

EU chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, had offered the UK and declared in 2017 that Britain's rejection of the single market and the customs union means that we need to work on a model that comes closer to the deal signed with Canada.

But his mindset changed when EU leaders raised concerns that Britain could become more competitive than its own economies. In February he warned that Britain's “special proximity” to the EU meant that any trade deal would have to be different from that with Canada.

Since then, he has filed claims that would keep the UK forever in the EU's regulatory orbit.

He confirmed that the level playing field rules are now the main problem to be overcome.

"The problem with the particular argument is that last week the EU negotiators didn't just want an agreement whereby we promise what we call non-regression – which is common in most trade deals, which means you set the standards at the time of entry – they actually wanted an agreement that would mean that if the EU passed new laws, the UK would have to obey them or the EU would retaliate, ”he told BBC Radio 4's Today program.

"We can accept the non-regression principles that apply to free trade agreements that Canada has actually made, and that's the point we've always made – we want an agreement similar to Canada with the European Union."

Mr Barnier and his British counterpart Lord Frost will both attend dinner that evening between Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen.

Many at Westminster are unsure whether the Prime Minister's trip to Brussels should be viewed as a good or a bad sign of the opportunities for business.

A cabinet minister said: “None of us really know what is going on. Is he leaving because he thinks there is a chance he can come back victorious with a piece of paper?

“Or does he already know it's probably not a deal and just wants to be seen to do all he can?

& # 39; Anyway, it's entirely his calling. Everyone wants a deal, but no one is pushing them to take it at any cost. It's up to his judgment. & # 39;

Die Crunch-Gespräche zwischen Herrn Johnson und Frau von der Leyen werden nur wenige Stunden vor dem heutigen Treffen der europäischen Staats- und Regierungschefs zu einem EU-Ratsgipfel in Brüssel stattfinden.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, said the summit would not officially discuss negotiations with Britain, but Ms. von der Leyen is expected to update leaders on the state of play.

There were fears that Mr Macron might use the summit to reiterate his opposition to a compromise and effectively crush hopes for a deal.

Downing Street accused Mr Macron of torpedoing talks last week by pressuring Mr Barnier to tighten his stance just as progress was being made.

Two EU diplomats told the mail that the chances of a Brexit deal were "no longer in Barnier's hands".

Sprecher Sir Lindsay Hoyle sagt, das Parlament könne bis Heiligabend sitzen, wenn es nötig wäre, um ein Brexit-Gesetz zu verabschieden

Das Unterhaus könnte bis Heiligabend sitzen, sollte es erforderlich sein, ein Brexit-Gesetz zu verabschieden, sagte Sprecher Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

Nach den derzeitigen Plänen werden die Commons am 21. Dezember aufhören zu sitzen, aber er sagte, dass die Pause von Sky News verzögert werden könnte.

Premierminister Boris Johnson und die Präsidentin der Europäischen Kommission, Ursula von der Leyen, waren sich einig, dass nach dreistündigen Gesprächen in Brüssel bis Sonntag eine „feste Entscheidung“ über die Zukunft der Verhandlungen getroffen werden sollte.

Die Übergangsfrist endet am 31. Dezember und jedes Abkommen müsste vom Europäischen Rat, dem Europäischen Parlament und Westminster ratifiziert werden.

Sir Linsday told the broadcaster: 'I would like to believe that we will all be going up on the date that's expected of the House.

'But if needs be, the House is the servant and I am happy as being that servant to ensure we can run, as far as I'm concerned, even up to Christmas Eve.

'I would like to believe we can finish on the Monday before Christmas. I would like to put everything to bed and get everybody away from here.'

Mr Johnson said the situation was "very difficult" but he hoped the "power of sweet sanity" could still reach an agreement later this month in the final days before the end of the Brexit transition.

He admitted that there might be a point where it is time to stump and accept that a deal is impossible.

Talks have stalled on the difficult issues of access to fisheries and the UK's right to determine its own destiny without having to follow EU post-Brexit rules.

The EU is ready to accept only modest cuts in its fishing quotas and wants them to be phased in over a decade.

Brussels also demands that Great Britain compete on what is known as an "equal playing field".

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said the open questions in negotiations with the European Union were sovereignty, not trade.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today, “I think the problem the Prime Minister is facing right now is that it is no longer a trade deal – a trade deal is in the wings.

"What is at stake here is sovereignty, the question of how far the EU can insist that its courts and rules and regulations apply to the UK later on, and the UK remains trapped in EU orbit without a say . " and that is simply unacceptable to the Prime Minister. & # 39;

Mr Johnson is ready to guarantee that the UK will not lower existing standards in areas such as state aid subsidies, labor rights and the environment, but Brussels now also wants the UK to adopt future EU rules and is asking for the power to Lightning bolts to raise tariffs when we part ways – an idea that No. 10 says is unacceptable.

Mr Johnson said yesterday: “Our friends just need to understand that the UK has left the EU in order to exercise democratic control over the way we work.

“There is also the issue of fishing, where we are still a long way apart. But hope is eternal, I'll do my best to sort this out if we can. & # 39;

Mr Barnier told MEPs this week that yesterday was the final deadline for a deal, as it had to be signed off by leaders at today's EU summit.

But the EU downplayed its comments yesterday, suggesting that talks could continue until the end of this month – and possibly into next year.

Downing Street said Britain was ready to continue talks "while we have time" – but ruled out an extension to next year.

Tory Eurosceptics urged Mr Johnson not to back down on the UK's red lines.

In a message to the Prime Minister on Twitter, former Party Treasurer Lord Ashcroft said: “At dinner in Brussels, hold your marbles, pour lead in your pencil, don't walk shakily or cross the indicated red lines … good luck. & # 39;

Former Brexit minister David Jones said a deal is now only possible if the EU gives ground under its feet.

He said: “We will never again allow our trade and regulatory policies to be dictated by other countries. A free trade agreement is one thing; Submission is another.

DOWN TO THE WIRE: TIMELINE OF THE BREXIT SAGA

Boris Johnson and the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen have agreed that a 'firm decision' about the future of Brexit negotiations should be made by Sunday.

As the clock ticks towards the deadline for agreement on a trade deal, here is a look at the key moments in the saga:

January 23, 2013 – Under intense pressure from many of his own MPs and with the rise of Ukip, prime minister David Cameron promises an in-out referendum on EU membership if the Conservatives win the 2015 general election.

May 7, 2015 – The Tories unexpectedly make sweeping gains over Ed Miliband's Labour Party and secure a majority in the Commons. Mr Cameron vows to deliver his manifesto pledge of an EU referendum.

June 23, 2016 – The UK votes to leave the EU in a shock result that sees 52% of the public support Brexit and Mr Cameron quickly resigns as prime minister.

July 13, 2016 – Theresa May takes over as prime minister. Despite having backed Remain, she promises to 'rise to the challenge' of negotiating the UK's exit.

November 10, 2016 – The High Court rules against the Government and says Parliament must hold a vote to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the mechanism that begins the exit from the EU. Mrs May says the ruling will not stop her from invoking the legislation by April 2017.

March 29, 2017 – Mrs May triggers Article 50. European Council president Donald Tusk says it is not a happy occasion, telling a Brussels press conference his message to the UK is: 'We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye.'

April 18, 2017 – Mrs May announces a snap general election to be held on June 8.

June 8, 2017 – There is humiliation for Mrs May as she loses her Commons majority after her election gamble backfires. She becomes head of a minority Conservative administration propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party.

September 22, 2017 – In a crucial Brexit speech in Florence, Mrs May sends a message to EU leaders by saying: 'We want to be your strongest friend and partner as the EU and UK thrive side by side.' She says she is proposing an 'implementation period' of 'around two years' after Brexit when existing market access arrangements will apply.

March 19, 2018 – The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, says he and Brexit secretary David Davis have taken a 'decisive step' towards agreeing a joint legal text on the UK's EU withdrawal but warns there are still outstanding issues relating to the Irish border.

July 6, 2018 – A crunch Cabinet meeting at Chequers agrees Mrs May's new Brexit plans, including the creation of a new UK-EU free trade area for goods. But not all who attend are happy with the compromises.

July 8 and July 9, 2018 – Mr Davis resigns from the Government in protest while the following day Boris Johnson quits as foreign secretary, claiming the plans mean 'we are truly headed for the status of colony' of the EU.

November 14, 2018 – In a statement outside 10 Downing Street after a five-hour Cabinet meeting, Mrs May says that Cabinet has agreed the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

November 15, 2018 – Dominic Raab resigns as Brexit secretary, saying he 'cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU'. Other resignations follow.

November 25, 2018 – The 27 EU leaders endorse the Brexit deal.

December 12, 2018 – Mrs May survives an attempt to oust her with a vote of no confidence as Tory MPs vote by 200 to 117 in the secret ballot in Westminster.

January 15, 2019 – MPs reject Mrs May's Brexit plans by an emphatic 432 to 202 in an historic vote which throws the future of her administration and the nature of the UK's EU withdrawal into doubt.

March 20, 2019 – Mrs May tells the House of Commons that she has written to Mr Tusk to request an extension to Article 50 Brexit negotiations to June 30.

March 29, 2019 – MPs reject Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement for a third time – by 286 votes to 344 – on the day the UK was due to leave the EU.

April 10, 2019 – The EU agrees a 'flexible extension' to Brexit until October 31. Mrs May says the 'choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear'.

May 23, 2019 – Nigel Farage's Brexit Party comes out on top in the European elections, while the pro-EU Liberal Democrats also make gains.

May 24, 2019 – Mrs May announces she is standing down as Tory Party leader on June 7. She says: 'It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.'

July 23, 2019 – Mr Johnson is elected as leader of the Conservative Party and becomes the UK's new Prime Minister after defeating Jeremy Hunt.

August 20, 2019 – The new Prime Minister is rebuffed by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker after demanding major changes to Irish border arrangements in a new Brexit deal.

August 28, 2019 – The Queen is dragged into the Brexit row as Mr Johnson requests the prorogation of Parliament from early September to mid-October.

September 4, 2019 – MPs vote to approve legislation aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit. Mr Johnson orders a purge of rebel Tories who opposed the Government including former chancellors Philip Hammond and Sir Kenneth Clarke.

The Prime Minister attempts to trigger an early general election but fails to get the required support of two-thirds of MPs.

September 24, 2019 – The Supreme Court rules that the PM's advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament until October 14 was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating Parliament.

October 2, 2019 – Mr Johnson puts forward his formal Brexit plan to the EU, revealing his blueprint to solve the Irish border issue.

October 10, 2019 – Mr Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar say they can see a 'pathway to a deal', in a joint statement after key talks at a luxury hotel in Cheshire.

October 17, 2019 – After intense negotiations, the Prime Minister announces the UK has reached a 'great deal' with the EU which 'takes back control' and means that 'the UK can come out of the EU as one United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, together'.

October 19, 2019 – In the first Saturday sitting of the Commons in 37 years Mr Johnson seeks the support of MPs in a 'meaningful vote' on his new deal but instead they back an amendment forcing him to seek a delay.

October 22, 2019 – The Prime Minister mounts an attempt to fast-track his Brexit deal through Parliament but puts the plans on ice after MPs vote against his foreshortened timetable.

October 28, 2019 – EU leaders agree to a second Brexit 'flextension' until January 31 unless Parliament ratifies the deal sooner.

October 29, 2019 – Mr Johnson finally succeeds at the fourth attempt in winning Commons support for a general election on December 12.

December 12, 2019 – Having campaigned on a promise to 'get Brexit done', Mr Johnson secures a landslide win at the election and with an 80-seat majority.

January 8, 2020 – New European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen visits No 10 to warn Mr Johnson the timetable for a post-Brexit trade deal is 'very, very tight'. The Prime Minister is clear however there will be no extension to the transition period, which expires at the end of 2020.

January 9, 2020 – Mr Johnson gets his Brexit deal through the Commons as the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is given a third reading with a majority of 99.

January 31, 2020 – A clock projected on the walls of Downing Street counts down the moments to the UK's departure from the EU at 11pm.

March 2, 2020 – Mr Barnier and Mr Johnson's chief EU adviser David Frost open formal talks in Brussels on Britain's future relationship with the bloc, including a free trade agreement.

March 12, 2020 – The two sides announce they are suspending face-to-face talks due to the coronavirus pandemic and will explore the options for continuing the negotiations by video conferencing.

June 12, 2020 – Cabinet office minister Michael Gove formally tells the EU the UK will not sign up to an extension to the transition period, but he backtracks on plans to immediately introduce full border checks with the bloc on January 1.

September 10, 2020 – The European Commission threatens the UK with legal action after ministers announce plans for legislation enabling them to override provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland in breach of international law.

October 16, 2020 – Mr Johnson says he is halting talks on a trade deal accusing EU leaders meeting for a summit in Brussels of seeking to impose 'unacceptable' demands.

November 7, 2020 – Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen agree to 'redouble' their efforts to get a deal while acknowledging that significant differences remain over fisheries and the so-called 'level playing field' for state aid rules.

December 4, 2020 – Lord Frost and Mr Barnier announce in a joint statement the conditions for an agreement had still not been met and negotiations will be put on 'pause' to allow political leaders to take stock, with Mr Johnson and Mrs Von der Leyen to engage in emergency talks.

December 9, 2020 – Mr Johnson and Mrs Von der Leyen dine at the European Commission, with talks between the two leaders lasting around three hours.

After the meeting, a senior Downing Street source says the pair had a 'frank discussion' and that 'very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged'.

The leaders agreed there would be further discussions between the negotiating teams, but that a 'firm decision' should be taken about the future of the talks by Sunday.

Michael Gove says Northern Ireland companies will not need to fill out forms to export goods to Britain as he claims the UK rejected EU demands for a 'mini-embassy' in Belfast

Michael Gove insisted Northern Ireland businesses will not need to fill out export forms to send goods to Britain when the post-Brexit transition period ends.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office said a deal on border arrangements struck with the EU means firms in Northern Ireland will have 'unfettered access' to the mainland.

The announcement represents a win for Boris Johnson who previously vowed he would not agree to terms that would allow checks to be carried out on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

The Prime Minister had memorably told business leaders to personally phone him if border officials ever asked to see their paperwork.

Meanwhile, Mr Gove claimed the UK had rejected an EU demand to have a 'mini-embassy' based in Belfast.

The terms of the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol will allow EU officials to monitor border checks but Mr Gove said they 'will not have any powers to carry out checks themselves'.

Michael Gove today insisted Northern Ireland businesses will not need to fill out export forms to send goods to Britain when the post-Brexit transition period ends

Michael Gove today insisted Northern Ireland businesses will not need to fill out export forms to send goods to Britain when the post-Brexit transition period ends

Michael Gove compared to Bart Simpson over 'I didn't do it' Brexit approach

Michael Gove today spoke of his fondness for Groundskeeper Willie after his behaviour over Brexit was compared to Bart Simpson.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office highlighted the fictional Scottish school janitor from The Simpsons during exchanges in the House of Commons – only to be told that Willie declared his support for Scottish independence at the 2014 referendum.

SNP MP Owen Thompson had raised The Simpsons by suggesting Mr Gove was following Bart's approach of claiming 'I didn't do it' for anything that goes wrong.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Thompson said: 'While the minister is telling Northern Ireland it can have the best of both worlds, he's using the same reasoning to tell Scotland to shut up and get back in your box – all while claiming any negative impacts are not actually Brexit-related.

'Is it now the case the minister has become the Government's very own Bart Simpson, causing chaos and presenting their agenda regardless of cost while claiming 'I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it, you can't prove anything'?'

Aberdeen-born Mr Gove replied: 'Well, I've always thought The Simpsons character I most remembered was Groundskeeper Willie because he's an Aberdonian.'

SNP MP Alison Thewliss could be heard shouting: 'He supports independence.'

Mr Gove replied: 'I'm not sure what his position is on independence, but as jannies (janitors) go, he's one of the best.'

Setting out the details of the protocol to MPs in the House of Commons yesterday, the Minister for the Cabinet Office said there will be no additional requirements placed on Northern Ireland businesses.

He said: 'This deal protects unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to their most important market as the Prime Minister underlined.

'This had to be protected in full and that meant removing any prospect of export declarations for Northern Ireland goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.

'As for what our agreement will do, there will be no additional requirements placed on Northern Ireland businesses with a very limited and specific exception of trade in endangered species and conflict diamonds.'

Mr Gove sought to downplay the role which will be played by EU officials under the new arrangements.

He told MPs: 'There'll be no Belfast mini-embassy or mission, as some in the EU originally sought, and the EU officials will not have any powers to carry out checks themselves.

'There will, instead, be sensible, practical arrangements – co-operation, reciprocal data-sharing – so that both sides can have confidence in these unique arrangements.'

The protocol is due to come into effect from the start of next year and is set to keep Northern Ireland in line with some EU regulations on the single market to allow an open border and free flow of goods and services across the island.

Mr Gove confirmed there will be a three-month 'grace period' for supermarkets and traders 'in order to make sure that they are ready for any health export certificate requirements'.

'This deal would keep goods flowing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in January, and indeed provide some necessary additional flexibilities,' he said.

'It protects Northern Ireland's supermarket supplies. We heard throughout the year that traders needed time to adapt their systems, that's why we've got a grace period for supermarkets to update their procedures.

'Our agreement also prevents any disruption at the end of the transition period on the movement of chilled meats. British sausages will continue to make their way to Belfast and Ballymena in the new year.'

The implementation of the protocol which is underpinned by the Brexit divorce deal was agreed by a joint EU-UK committee earlier this week.

The breakthrough meant controversial clauses in the Internal Market Bill which related to Northern Ireland and which the Government had previously admitted broke international law could be removed.

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