Michel Barnier has told the European Commission that Brexit negotiators are in the “final push” to secure a trade deal with the UK.
The EU’s chief negotiator (pictured) gave the update as senior diplomats warned that governments may begin enacting “emergency no-deal plans if a trade accord was not struck by Friday”, The Telegraph reports.
Despite the risk that no-deal planning “could poison the ongoing negotiations”, with just six weeks until the transition period ends “the EU had no choice but to start work on its no-deal safety net”, a senior diplomat told the paper.
David Frost, the UK’s most senior Brexit negotiator, has told Boris Johnson that he may be able to expect a Brexit deal “early next week”, suggesting that the EU27 may be forced into beginning preparations for a no-deal exit.
EU Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, who is also the EU trade commissioner, said that negotiations are continuing with “great intensity”, adding “we are now in the last moments to reach this agreement”.
European leaders are now expected to “demand” that the bloc’s no-deal planning is circulated “amid fears that Brexit negotiations are dragging on without businesses knowing what they need to prepare for in the worst scenario”, The Times says.
The Netherlands, France and Belgium are particularly concerned about the continued uncertainty around fishing rights, and want to avoid being “hit by economic disruption without EU contingency measures to cushion the blow of no-deal”, the paper adds.
Barnier has held off on releasing the no-deal planning as he feared it would give Britain too much insight into the EU27’s plans during the negotiations and post-Brexit.