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The European Union’s chief negotiator has told colleagues he believes they will know whether a future relationship deal is possible by November 23. Insiders said the Frenchman was pessimistic about chances of reaching an agreement by the original mid-November deadline after failing to break the deadlock on future fishing rights and common standards. Mr Barnier will host another round of talks in the Belgian capital next week in the hope of finally securing progress in the wrangling over a post-Brexit trade agreement with Britain.
Both sides walked away from another week of negotiations today with “considerable differences” between their positions.
After a private briefing, one Brussels source said: “There is a lot of focus on why negotiations are being pushed to the very last moment, and it is clear they are being dragged out by both sides until that very last moment.”
The fresh delay means EU leaders will be left without an agreement to discuss when they convene for a video conference call on Thursday.
EU Parliament sources have also suggested MEPs will be forced to hold a special vote between Christmas and the New Year to ratify any potential trade deal.
The next scheduled European Council summit of leaders is due to be held in Brussels on December 10-11.
Senior MEPs have told Mr Barnier a deal must be complete by the first day of that gathering at the absolute latest or the ratification process will be impossible.
Meanwhile British negotiators have lashed out at claims in Brussels that Dominic Cumming’s expected departure at Downing Street’s most senior adviser means the Government is set to cave on Brexit.
UK officials believe eurocrats are desperately scrambling for excuses now they are “starting to realise” the Prime Minister will not water down commitments to take back control of the country’s laws and fishing grounds.
One source said: “David and the team are completely focused on the negotiations.
“The PM has been clear that he wants a deal if there is one to be done. We’ve been negotiating constructively and with creativity.
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“The reason the EU to say these sorts of things is that they are starting to realise that we meant it when we said there were fundamental principles from which we couldn’t move.
“We need to see some realism and creativity from their side if we are to bridge the significant gaps that remain.”
The furious rant came after senior Brussels claimed the changes in No10 was a sign Boris Johnson was ready to offer concessions on his pledge to take back control of the UK’s fishing grounds and laws.
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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was “simply false” that he is prepared to soften its position in the trade talks.
He said: “The Government position in relation to the future trade agreement negotiations is unchanged.
“We want to reach a dealt it has to fully respect the sovereignty of Britain.”
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