Boris Johnson and senior Eurocrats had aimed to thrash out the outline of a deal in time for the EU summit on Thursday. But sources in Brussels said yesterday that the wrangling is likely to drag on into November after informal discussions this week failed to make a breakthrough. One diplomat said: “It’s not a matter of deadlines. First of all it was July, then August, and now mid-October.
“I don’t expect any readiness on the British side to suspend the negotiations. This is going to continue.”
Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s European envoy, and Michel Barnier, the EU chief Brexit negotiator, agreed that their teams will continue informal negotiations in Brussels on Monday following the pair’s talks in London yesterday. A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: “We’ve had useful discussions this week and progress has been made in some areas.
“However there still remain differences on some important issues.
“We remain committed to trying to agree a Free Trade Agreement and we will work towards that today and next week.”
However, a growing list of EU leaders are said to be calling for no deal. An EU source said: “Mr Barnier needs more from the UK side. Whether there will be a deal will become clearer in the next week.”
A diplomatic insider involved in the negotiations said a no-deal scenario in December could be used to focus minds ahead of a fresh effort to broker a deal in the New Year.
The source added: “We could also have a scenario where it will not work out now but maybe some time in the future. We’ll have a period of chaos but if for some reason we need to see how much it hurts before politicians come to their senses then so be it.”
EU chiefs are believed to be laying the groundwork for a climbdown on fisheries to try to save the talks.
Eurocrats will draw up new catch quotas to try and appease their influential fishing states, including France, Denmark and Belgium.
Mr Barnier has ignored French calls for him to remain firm on status quo access to UK waters, saying member states must show more “realism” if they are to reach an agreement.
During a private meeting earlier this week, he told EU ambassadors they must accept lower quotas.
One EU insider said the fisheries battle will be the “No1 issue” for France’s president Emmanuel Macron as he prepares for a national election in 2022.
But Germany’s Angela Merkel, who holds the EU’s rotating presidency and a key role in brokering any compromise, is said to be more concerned about state subsidies controls.
The senior diplomat said: “I do not believe fisheries will be a major impediment to an EU-UK agreement. The UK sees it as a lever to gain market access to the EU, that’s the game.”