Boris tells EU to GET REAL: UK threatens to walk away from ‘pointless’ Brexit talks

Brexit: EU offer is ‘not acceptable’ says Alex Phillips

Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s lead negotiator, has told EU Brexit chief Michel Barnier he’ll only remain at the negotiating table while the Frenchman is willing to compromise. Mr Barnier was last week ordered by French President Emmanuel Macron to table a series of “eleventh hour” proposals that left the negotiations on the brink of collapse. The pair are set to hold late-night discussions as they attempt to break the deadlock in the wrangling over a future EU-UK trade and security agreement.

A UK source close to the talks said: “There won’t be any agreement if the EU doesn’t recognise political reality.

“We’ll only keep talking if there is some movement and we think there’s any point.”

British officials are far more gloomy than their EU counterparts over whether a deal can be struck in the next few days. 

Downing Street fears there is little wriggle room after a phone call between the Prime Minister and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen failed to change the “substance” of the talks

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The UK and EU are locked in discussions over post-Brexit fishing rights and common standards, including controls over state subsidies for industry.

Brussels sources believe a “landing zone” is emerging for future access to Britain’s coastal waters.

Both sides are currently battling over whether they should agree to the EU’s idea of a 10-year transition period or Britain’s three-year proposal.

But an EU diplomat said the real challenge was in finding a compromise that would allow Brussels to respond with trade tariffs if Britain refuses to match the bloc’s standards in the future.

UK dealmaker Lord Frost arrived in Brussels last night, saying: “We’re going to be working very hard to get a deal.

“We’re going to see what happens in negotiations today and will be looking forward to meeting our European colleagues later this afternoon.” 

Mr Barnier yesterday cleared his diary, cancelling meetings with EU27 ambassadors and MEPs, to have a “serious stab” at ending the deadlock.

An EU diplomat familiar with the discussions told “It feels all quite choreographed.

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“Storms are coming and black ice is forecast but it feels too early for the talks to derail.

“My money is on a Tuesday deal.”

Prime Minister Mr Johnson will hold further talks with Mrs von der Leyen Monday evening to evaluate their negotiators’ work. 

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said the Brexit trade deal is “97 or 98 per cent” complete and “we are more likely to get a deal than not”.

More pessimistic officials put the odds of a deal at “50/50” because of the “fundamental issues” still to be resolved.

Even the French government, which last week threatened to vote down any trade deal over concerns Mr Barnier was being too soft, signalled it was ready to allow Britain to diverge from EU rules.

Europe minister Clement Beaune, a close ally of Emmanuel Macron, said: “The British want access to the single market without constraints for their social, environmental and health standards, which is unacceptable.

“For our part, we are ready to put in place a system in which divergence of standards would be allowed but beyond which corrective measures would be taken.

“The British tell us that this is unfair because other third countries do not have these same constraints, such as Canada. But we have to realise that the UK will be our major trading partner outside the EU tomorrow.”

In a weekend interview, Mr Beaune insisted Paris was still prepared to veto any Brexit deal if its fishermen are largely locked out of Britain’s coastal waters.

He said: “If there is an agreement, we will evaluate the text, analyse it. But, if the agreement is not good and does not conform to our interests, especially for the fishermen, we, France, like every member state, could veto it.”

And in a sign of growing tensions between Paris and Berlin over concessions, Mr Beaune claimed a bad Brexit deal would hammer the German economy.

He said: “As for the Chancellor Merkel she wants a deal, but she also defends our demands – and she knows the European market well enough to guess how the German economy would suffer from a bad deal.”

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