The United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) will formally begin on Tuesday in Brussels the ninth and final round of talks on a post-Brexit free trade treaty that looks even more elusive as both sides keep crossing swords over the UK government's plans to override parts of the withdrawal agreement.
According to the agenda released by the UK government, the week-long negotiations will focus on the fishery, the so-called level playing field for open and fair competition, horizontal arrangement and governance and law enforcement and judicial cooperation, which are the sticky points in the conversations.
Prior to this week's talks, which will be headed by UK chief negotiator David Frost and his European counterpart Michel Barnier, UK Brexit Minister Michael Gove met with EU Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic on Monday in Brussels, but only to confirm that a no-deal Brexit has never been so close.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Sefcovic said that the EU will not be the one to call an end to the negotiations on the future partnership, but he warned that the bloc would use the legal mechanisms within the Brexit agreement if the UK does not remove by Wednesday the clauses in the Internal Market Bill that violate both the letter of the treaty and international law.
In a separate statement, Gove said the UK government will not back down and would continue seeking the passage of the controversial proposal in Parliament, after it passed its first reading in the House of Commons on September 15.
"But those clauses are there, they're in legislation supported by the House of Common as a safety net if need be and those clauses will remain in that Bill," he said, as quoted by the UK media, in reference to the bill that would roll back some of the state aid and customs commitments that London made in the Northern Ireland protocol.
The United Kingdom left the European Union in January but remains under the current EU trade terms for the extension of the so-called transition period which is due to expire on December 31.
If no trade deal is reached by then, the World Trade Organisation's rules will come into effect starting in 2021, meaning that customs tariffs and full border checks will be applied for UK goods entering the European area.