EU does not believe Boris will walk away from Brexit talks – less than one week to go

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Last month Boris Johnson imposed a hard deadline of October 15 for a post-Brexit trade deal to be reached with the EU. But the two sides have still failed to agree on a number of areas, raising doubts a deal will be reached by Thursday.

But EU sources have cast doubt on whether the UK will walk out on the trade talks next week.

They said: “I don’t detect any readiness on the British side to suspend the negotiations.

“This is going to continue. It is not a deadline.”

A European Council summit will be held in Brussels next Thursday and Friday, and the Prime Minister has said the meeting is his deadline for a deal.

In September he said that without agreement it would be time to “accept and move on”.

David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, reiterated this position to the Lords EU Committee earlier this week.

He said: “As we approach the 15th, and it is very close already, I will have to advise the Prime Minister on whether the conditions in his statement have been met or not and we will have to consider the situation at that point.”

Lord Frost also conceded that significant progress was still needed on areas such as fisheries and the level playing field.

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He said: “I feel we are some way from a deal at the moment, if I’m honest, but we are at least having a decent discussion on this and what’s possible and isn’t possible.”

Downing Street reiterated that big differences on “important issues” remain.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman did say “useful discussions” had taken place this week.

He said: “We have had useful discussions this week.


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“Progress has been made in some areas, however there still remains differences on some important issues but we remain committed to trying to agree an FTA [free trade agreement].

“We continue to want an agreement, we continue to want an FTA but it is important that we can agree on some issues.”

Brussels seems keen to extend the trade talks until the end of the month, rather than stopping on October 15.

The European Parliament has said it could ratify an agreement if one arrived before November.

Next week’s summit could lead to intense and decisive “tunnel” negotiations later this month.

The talks will involve the two sides consulting outside political stakeholders or briefing the media on possible compromises.

But the EU wants Britain to make a few more concessions before they give the go ahead to such talks.

An EU diplomat told the Guardian: “We need to get a little bit more from the UK side, or Michel Barnier needs to, before he is ready to use, as he says, the ‘submarine’ or the ‘tunnel’.”

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