EU hints at new Brexit scenario where no deal pursued ON PURPOSE

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EU insiders claimed Britain could be allowed to exit the transition period without an agreement so both sides feel the “pain” of no deal before resuming talks in February or March. One EU diplomat suggested it would enable talks to start afresh after months of acrimonious exchanges in the wrangling over future state subsidies policy and access to Britain’s fishing grounds. The move comes after senior figures in Brussels gave up hope of an agreement being reached in time for next week’s crunch summit of European leaders.

Boris Johnson is expected to decide after the gathering whether to walk away from the negotiations if an agreement seems out of reach.

With a deal not concluded ahead of the Prime Minister’s deadline, the diplomat said: “We could also have a scenario where it will not work out but maybe some time in the future.

“We’ll have a period of chaos but if for some reason we need to see things evolve and how much it hurts before politicians come to their senses, then so be it.”

EU officials have largely disregarded the ultimatum set by Downing Street ahead of their European Council showdown on Thursday.

One said: “It’s not a matter of deadlines. The British Government has warned clarity for its businesses, first it was July, then August and now mid-October.

“I don’t see any intention that the British will suspend negotiations. They will continue, it’s not a deadline.”

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, will avoid discussing potential landing zones with leaders.

He will also refuse to discuss the issue of future access to Britain’s fishing waters as he faces a potential rebellion from France and Denmark over plans to water down his demands.

The Brussels diplomat wants to move away from the EU’s bid to secure the same level of access to the UK’s coastal waters after Brexit.

He is keen to prevent discussions over potential compromises happening at a leadership level because it could spark angry clashes.

Yesterday it emerged Mr Barnier will float a potential fisheries compromise with Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, if the UK reciprocates on the so-called level playing field.

The EU negotiator was said to be ready to “move away” from the bloc’s demand to retain the same level of access to Britain’s coastal waters after the Brexit transition period ends in December.

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The Brussels bureaucrat will signal his willingness to budge but only if Lord Frost is prepared to offer more reassurances over future state subsidies policy.

European diplomatic sources say the bloc is now more willing to cave on fish in return for a more robust regulatory level playing field than was previously proposed by British negotiators.

One senior insider told “It’s one of the realities of Brexit, let’s say an unpleasant change for us, but we understand how the British fishermen on the other side of the Channel think.”

The bloc is now putting more emphasis on its demands for tighter controls over state aid and policing the final agreement.

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Brussels sources said plans are already being drawn up to ease opposition from President Emmanuel Macron to Mr Barnier’s watered down fisheries demands.

Diplomats say the French leader will be blamed by northern fishing towns for suddenly losing access to British waters.

One source said: “If there is no deal, he will be made responsible – and it’s even worse for French fishermen.”

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