EU panic: Michel Barnier ‘desperate’ for Brexit breakthrough ahead of ‘critical endgame’

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Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has said Brussels will be looking to take Britain down to the wire in trade talks and warned the final three weeks of negotiations will be more important than the last three years. Following the seventh round of talks last week, Mr Barnier said a deal now looked “unlikely” before the October deadline.

Outstanding issues over a level-playing field on trade, fisheries and state aid remained on the table.

Despite the pessimism shown by the EU chief, Mr Davis insists the French europhile will want to see progress made on the EU side before the crucial 11th hour.

Mr Davis said: “Barnier is desperate to resolve his so-called redline issues before we get to the critical endgame.

“I have always said that the last three weeks will matter more than the first three years”.

“But, there will come a time very shortly when we will have to shift the thrust of our preparations towards no deal.”

Following the talks in Brussels, Mr Barnier firmly put the blame towards the UK and said he had seen “no progress whatsoever” on fishing, and reiterated is commitment to a level-playing field to prevent businesses on one side undercutting rivals.

UK chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said he believes a trade deal is still possible but acknowledged “there has been little progress”.

Mr Frost said the EU’s insistence on accepting its terms on state aid and fishing had made an agreement “unnecessarily difficult”.

In a statement, Mr Frost said: “The EU is still insisting not only that we must accept continuity with EU state aid and fisheries policy, but also that this must be agreed before any further substantive work can be done in any other area of the negotiation, including on legal texts.

“This makes it unnecessarily difficult to make progress.

“There are other significant areas which remain to be resolved and, even where there is a broad understanding between negotiators, there is a lot of detail to work through.

“Time is short for both sides.”

Mr Davis warned a no deal outcome at the end of the Brexit transition period would harm the bloc more than the UK.

He said the scenario would mean businesses in the EU would lose access to financial markets, European fishermen would be denied access to UK fishing waters, and the EU would no longer be entitled to funding agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Davis was also full of praise for Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator for not backing down to the EU.

As a result of the continued stalemate, Mr Davis said there was now only two possibilities remaining – a no deal exit or a zero-tariff agreement.

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Writing in The Sun, he said: “David Frost, our Brexit negotiator, is doing a good job. He has been clear on our ‘red lines’. Unlike the EU ‘red lines’, these are not just ideas made up by the Government, they are the direct outcome of the referendum.

“As such, they represent the people’s decision, and are not subject to concession.

“We are not going to allow Brussels to decide our laws – which is what Barnier means by a level-playing field. So it is time that the Europeans woke up to the realities.

“It is clear that there are only two options now for leaving at the end of the transition period, a no deal exit or a zero-tariff deal. All sensible business owners will be preparing for both.”

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