Brexit endgame: Boris set to personally intervene as desperate EU sets final deadline

The Prime Minister is expected to speak to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as efforts are made to overcome the last hurdles in negotiations. Brussels wants all current disagreements in trade talks with the UK to be resolved by next Tuesday. But significant stumbling blocks still remain between both sets of negotiators, predominantly around fishing access and state aid.

Both sides had been hoping for an agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal to have been in place by now to provide it with enough time to be ratified before the end of the transition period on December 31.

But the timetable for this was pushed back last week when Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier was forced into self-isolation when a member of his team tested positive for coronavirus.

This meant face-to-face talks had to be paused but are expected to resume on Thursday, leaving negotiators with a race against time to thrash out the final terms of any deal.

But a source close to the UK team warned Mr Johnson will not stand down from his demands in trade talks.

The insider said: “Both sides seem to think we will get there, but nothing is certain and Boris Johnson will not water down his demands in order to get a deal.

“The negotiators are nearly there on an awful lot of things, but the areas of disagreement – state aid in particular – cuts across a lot of other areas.

“We are not in the final moments yet but this week will see the start of the final push.

“I would expect that at some point this week the Prime Minister or Ursula von der Leyen will have to make an intervention.”

READ MORE: Boris Johnson issues checkmate warning to EU over deal – ‘Time is up’

Westminster may be forced to sit through the Christmas break to pass the necessary legislation, but EU nations have warned they are not prepared to follow suit.

On Saturday, Ms von der Leyen said there had been “better progress” towards the EU and UK reaching an agreement.

But just 24 hours later, Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned the UK would not be agreeing to a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU “at any price”.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday: “I think we’re making progress in the talks and I remain hopeful that we can reach resolution.

“I think we’re being entirely reasonable with our requests and have been consistent and transparent through this process about what’s important to us. But we will prosper in any eventuality.

“In the short-term specifically, and most immediately, it would be preferable to have a deal because it would ease things in the short-term.

“I think the most important impact on our economy next year is not going to be from that, it’s because of coronavirus.”

However, the Chancellor added: “We should not be going for a deal at any price, that would be the wrong thing to do and I think there are things that are important to us in these negotiations, and we’ve been entirely, as I said, reasonable, consistent and transparent.

“We just want pretty much the same treatment as most other countries that do trade deals with the EU get.

“So, hopefully we can find a constructive place but I’m very confident about the British economy in all circumstances when I think longer term.”

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