CARLISLE’S MP has said he still remains hopeful that a deal can be struck with the European Union as talks reach crunch time.

Discussions between the world’s largest trading bloc and the UK government were continuing yesterday, with the December 31 deadline fast approaching.

Negotiations between the two sides were extended on Sunday after Boris Johnson and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen agreed to continue the process despite major differences remaining.

For months the talks have been deadlocked on the issues of fishing rights, the “level playing field” to ensure neither side can unfairly compete with the other on environmental standards, workers’ rights or state subsidies, and the legal mechanisms to govern any deal.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the “next few days” are important if a deal is to be in place for January 1.

“It is very, very challenging for both sides in terms of the negotiation,” explained Carlisle MP John Stevenson.

“I still maintain it’s in the interests of both sides to make a deal.

“There is a terrible tendency in parts of the media to always think it is Britain’s fault but I sometimes feel it is the European Union which is being intransigent.

“I got the impression we were moving towards a deal and some of our European partners tried to change the terms of negotiation.”

Mr Stevenson believes there will be both positives and negatives if a deal can’t be agreed. He said: “Obviously there is going to be some border controls that we have not seen for 20 years, disruption in the supply chain and tariffs on goods."

He added that it would also present opportunities to some British businesses as the price of importing goods increased. Mr Stevenson said that a no-deal scenario could lead to prices rising and falling in different sectors.

The MP said Britain would continue to trade with the EU regardless of whether a deal was agreed or not.

Airing his views on why he believed a deal had not yet been agreed, Mr Stevenson commented: “I think it is primarily about the divergence issue.

“At the moment we have very similar rules and restrictions but as time goes on we may want to change ours and they may change theirs. It is about having a level playing field within the EU.”