EU-UK trade deal: "progress made", says EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Great Britain and the EU have made progress towards a trade deal in the last few days but there is still a lot of work to do for an agreement to be in place by the end-year deadline, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Diplomats briefed earlier by European Commission said Brussels and London continue to remain at loggerheads over fishing rights, fair competition guarantees and ways to solve future disputes.

However, von der Leyen sounded a more optimistic note on the last-ditch talks at a news conference, pointing to progress on the question of ensuring a level playing field for state aid.

“After difficult weeks with very, very slow progress, now we’ve seen in the last days better progress, more movement on important files. This is good,” she said. “Within the frame of the level playing field, progress for example has been made with state aid, but there are still quite some metres to the finish line so there’s a lot of work to do.”

Three senior EU diplomats reportedly told Reuters that, at the briefing for ambassadors, the Commission stressed that talks were still snagged on the three core issues, but there was now momentum that made them hopeful a deal could be clinched on time. “There really was a feeling that we are seeing a lot of momentum and that somehow we will find a way,” one said.

The chief Brexit negotiators suspended direct talks on Thursday after a member of the EU team tested positive for COVID-19, but officials continued working remotely to clinch a trade deal that would come into force in just six weeks.

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