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Frustrated leaders will ramp up their no deal preparations with another deadline set to be missed in the wrangling over the future trade and security pact. They had wanted to see the outline of an agreement in time for their crunch video conference call on Thursday. But the negotiations between Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit chief, and UK counterpart Lord Frost have stalled because of disagreements over future fishing rights and state aid rules.
A diplomatic source said: “You can expect some strong words from leaders that the EU will be within days of operating in a no-deal scenario and the Commission has been tasked to activate contingency planning.”
Brussels sources have warned they have little hope for a deal if a significant breakthrough isn’t made by Saturday at the latest.
Mr Barnier is set to tell EU ambassadors on Friday whether he believes a deal with Britain is possible.
If the Frenchman delivers a positive message he could be given more time by European capitals to clinch an agreement.
But talks are not expected to continue beyond next week if possible landing zones are not found in the battles over future access to Britain’s coastal waters and common standards.
One EU official described the last months’ intensive talks as “Groundhog Day” for the bloc.
While progress has been made drafting a joint legal text in areas where both sides are in agreement, they have been unable to find solutions on the most contentious issues.
Boris Johnson has warned the Cabinet it is “far from certain” a Brexit trade deal will be struck.
The Prime Minister said the UK is working hard to secure an agreement but will not surrender to demands from Brussels to give up huge access to fishing waters.
He hold senior ministers that Britain will “thrive” even if the talks collapse.
He has been repeatedly warned Britain will leave the transition period on the same terms as Australia if Brussels refuses to budge.
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Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “The PM said that his position hasn’t changed.The UK is keen to secure a deal with the EU but not at the cost of our core principles around sovereignty and control over our laws, borders, money – and our fish.”
“We are working hard to find solutions which fully respect UK sovereignty but it is far from certain that an agreement will prove possible and time is now very short.
“The PM said that if we cannot find suitable compromises with our European friends, we will leave the transition period on Australia-style terms on January 1.”
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He continued: “The PM said he was incredibly confident that the UK will thrive with or without a free trade agreement with the EU.”
Mr Johnson was urged to stand firm against EU demands for the same fishing rights as the bloc has now.
Industry organisations warned any late concessions to Brussels would never be reclaimed, adding: “We urge you to hold firm.”
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