The European Union has issued one of its most upbeat assessments of the state of post-Brexit trade negotiations as the talks face an ever tighter deadline for a deal to enter into force for the start of the new year.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said "we've seen in the last days, better progress, more movement on important files".
"This is good," von der Leyen told reporters in comments that contrast sharply with previous statements over the talks that have dragged on with little progress for months.
Her comment came a day after a member of the EU negotiating team tested positive for the coronavirus, which led to the high-level talks being suspended.
She said that because legal texts had made such progress, further discussions by video over the next days could progress too "since there is now substance where you can go through line by line".
Over the past few months, the talks have failed to much headway on some key issues, notably over fishing rights, business regulations and state aid.
"Progress, for example, has been made on the question of state aid," von der Leyen said over a key EU demand that the UK does not excessively subsidise products that could undercut local EU products.
Despite the upbeat assessment, von der Leyen sought to temper any excessive optimism that may be generated.
"There are quite some metres to the finish line," she said.
"Indeed, time pressure is high without any question at the moment."
Australian Associated Press