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The Daily Express understands EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and British counterpart Lord Frost have just three weeks to reach an agreement, which must then be approved by Parliament and European nations. Key sticking points remain fishing rights, the governance of any deal and the “level playing field” aimed at preventing unfair competition, including state subsidies.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said yesterday: “In terms of the timeframe, I think what I would say is that time is now very short. We have been repeatedly clear that any agreement needs to be in place before the end of the transition period.
“It is obviously for the EU to determine the length of time it needs for ratification.”
Confirming talks would take place in the UK and on the Continent in the coming weeks, the spokesman said, and “after this initial phase they will hopefully continue to be in person alternating between London and Brussels”.
Arriving in London yesterday, Mr Barnier said: “I think it’s very important to be back at the table.”
The restarted talks came as the Government brought forward measures to minimise trade disruption after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.
They include Operation Brock, a bid to prevent traffic jams on Kent routes leading to cross-Channel ferry ports.
Lorries crossing to France from the Port of Dover or the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone must have a permit before they enter Kent, or face a £300 fine.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “By putting in place these plans we are ensuring Kent keeps moving, our fantastic haulage industry is supported and trade continues to flow as we embark on our future as a fully independent state.”
Drivers who do not have a Kent Access Permit (KAP) will be identified by automatic number plate recognition cameras before reaching the border.
However the Road Haulage Association branded the KAPs “pointless”.
It said they were not effective “to actually guarantee or ensure someone is ready to cross the border”.
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