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The two negotiating teams have concluded two weeks of talks after Boris Johnson last month threatened to pull the plug on a trade deal with Brussels as he ran out of patience over the bloc’s refusal to compromise on issues such as fisheries, level-playing field and governance. Trade meetings culminated in Brussels on Wednesday, with the UK team led by Mr Frost returning to London to prepare for further talks in the capital this weekend. But with less than two weeks to strike a Free Trade Agreement before the mid-November deadline, no breakthrough has been made, leading to suggestions from both negotiators the UK and EU could be heading for a no deal outcome with the transition period ending on December 31.
Following the conclusion of the latest round of talks on Wednesday, Lord Frost tweeted: “We’ve just finished two weeks of intensive talks with the EU.
“Progress made, but I agree with @MichelBarnier that wide divergences remain on some core issues.
“We continue to work to find solutions that fully respect UK sovereignty.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Mr Barnier had said “very serious divergences” remained in trade talks with Britain, suggesting the bloc would now be prepared to accept a no deal outcome rather than yield on its key demands.
He tweeted: “Despite EU efforts to find solutions, very serious divergences remain in level playing field, governance & fisheries.
“These are essential conditions for any economic partnership.
“The EU is prepared for all scenarios.”
During a private briefing with EU ambassadors and the European Parliament in Brussels, Mr Barnier did not provide a timeline or even any certainty that a trade deal with the UK would be agreed by the mid-November deadline.
One EU diplomat said: “The UK does not seem to be engaging sufficiently on key issues like level playing field, governance and fisheries.”
Another added: “The UK does not seem to be engaging sufficiently on key issues.
“Given this situation, a no-deal outcome can’t be excluded.”
Mr Barnier could also yet be preparing to pave the way for a last-minute Brexit compromise by offering to further intensify trade talks with Britain.
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EU sources said the chief negotiator claimed UK counterpart Lord Frost was deliberately running down the clock in order to secure a number of concessions from the bloc.
But some senior diplomatic sources continued to insist it is “too late for brinkmanship” in the trade talks.
One EU diplomat told Express.co.uk: “One would have thought a fortnight from the deadline that more movement under the radar would be apparent but so far the Commission hasn’t been able to tell us that things are moving.
“Is this a brinkmanship strategy? We don’t know, but as a ploy to get what they want it would fail.”
A second source said: “The Brits are deliberately running down the clock in the hope of getting what they want at the last minute – but anything can happen at five minutes to midnight.”
The diplomat added talks over the regulatory level-playing field are stuck because of Britain refusal to agree to “joint development of future higher standards and a common definition of the current standards”.
Mr Barnier’s fury with Britain’s negotiating tactics boiled over in a meeting with the European Parliament’s Brexit committee.
One source said: “We’re seeing the British applying tactics that we are well familiar with where they’re trying to push all of the interests that they want access to our markets and then blocking any areas where we want to make headway.”
Mr Barnier told MEPs would be will “quite tough” with Lord Frost when the pair meet in London on Sunday afternoon.
A source said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen could hold talks with Boris Johnson next week in a desperate push to edge a trade deal over the line before the next deadlines approach.
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