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Downing Street is frustrated at EU neogtiator’s refusal to engage properly in recent weeks despite a pledge from European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen to accelerate the process. Lord Frost will tell the Prime Minister a trade deal with the European Union before the end of the month is still possible but will require the bloc to finally knuckle down. And Mr Johnson is expected to make a final decision on whether to sanction further UK-EU talks after discussions with EU leaders.
The Prime Minister will hold talks with Mrs von der Leyen and EU Council chief Charles Michel over video-call ahead of a crunch summit of European leaders.
Mr Michel will call on Mr Johnson to “move forward and negotiate in good faith so that we can move forward and find solutions to bridge the gaps”, an aide said.
Both sides were said to be closing in on breakthroughs in areas such as law enforcement, aviation and road haulage, according to a source close to the negotiations.
But in the vexed issues of access to Britain’s fishing grounds and future state subsidies policy there are still “stark differences”.
British negotiators are concerned the EU is still yet to accept that the UK will be an independent coastal nation with full control over its waters after the end of the transition period in December.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “There are still differences, with fisheries being the starkest. We need to get substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.
“The PM’s September 7 statement was very clear about the significance of October 15. He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team. We cannot prejudge that decision.”
EU leaders are expected to instruct Mr Barnier to “intensify” the negotiations over the coming weeks.
A leaked draft summit memo says: “The European Council reaffirmed the Union’s determination to have as close as possible a partnership with the United Kingdom on the basis of the negotiating directives of February 29, 2020.
“Against this background, the European Council invited the Union’s chief negotiator to intensify negotiations with the aim of ensuring that an agreement can be applied from January 1, 2021.”
And as time runs out, Brussels will also ramp up its own preparations for a no-deal Brexit amid fears talks with Britain could still end in failure.
Lord Frost wants the EU to finally begin drafting joint legal texts in the areas where both sides are closest to an agreement.
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The move has so far been resisted by Mr Barnier, who wants to reach a deal on fisheries and state aid before allowing technical work.
Mr Johnson’s Brexit envoy believes the UK and EU will have to meet every day over the next two weeks in order to end the impasse.
Mr Barnier will brief European leaders tomorrow on the recent rounds of negotiations with Britain over a future relationship pact.
A senior EU official said: “We have seen some progress on different files. But, there is still a lot of distance to be covered. And on the main issues there is still a lot of work to be done, mainly on fisheries, level playing field and governance.
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“We want to be reassured on these three subjects but we’ve seen no movement on the other side of the Channel.”
Hinting at growing divisions between capitals, the insider said fisheries is “important for certain parts of Europe” but the “level playing field is key for all”.
“If you have no way to react to unfair competition you are in a situation where you might destroy your own economy – that’s a concern for leaders.”
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