Talks between Britain and the EU on a post-Brexit trade deal are continuing in London after Michel Barnier delayed his return to Brussels.
The EU’s chief negotiator is expected to remain in the UK until Wednesday to carry on intensive discussions with his British counterpart Lord Frost.
Mr Barnier originally arrived in London on Thursday to resume the stalled negotiations and had been expected to return on Sunday ahead of the talks switching this week to the Belgian capital.
The decision to stay in London was thought, at least in part, to be related to soaring coronavirus infection rates in Brussels.
Nevertheless Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the move was a “very good sign” that the talks were progressing.
“I think there is a good chance that we can get a deal but I think it is for the EU to understand that it is for them to move as well,” he said.
Time is running short if there is to be an agreement before the Brexit transition period comes to a close at the end of the year.
The UK and the EU had previously said they would need to get a deal by mid-October if it was to be implemented in time.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that if there is no agreement, Britain will start trading with the bloc on “Australian terms” – shorthand for World Trade Organisation rules.
However the prospect of the imposition of tariffs and quotas has alarmed many businesses already reeling from the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The main obstacles to a deal remain fishing rights, so-called “level playing field” rules to ensure fair competition and governance arrangements for any agreement.