EU boss Ursula von der Leyen has vowed that there is a “narrow path” to a Brexit deal – and the next few days are key.
The top Eurocrat was upbeat in a statement to politicians from the bloc, but warned she could not guarantee a deal by the end of the year.
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Ms von der Leyen told MEPS that “as things stand I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not.”
But she said there is now a “path to agreement” and stressed the next few days would be “decisive” as negotiators continued to work to secure an agreement.
The EU Commission President said: “The next days are going to be decisive. I know deadlines have been missed, time and again.
“The clock puts us all in a very difficult situation, not least this parliament.”
The potential way forward was “very narrow”, Ms von der Leyen warned.
But the two sides had found a way forward on “most issues”, she told the EU Parliament.
She suggested there had been movement one of the key areas – the so-called “level playing field” issue which would tie the UK to the EU to prevent unfair competition.
But she warned “difficulties still remain” over the most onerous sticking point – fishing rights in British waters.
Ms von der Leyen warned there may never be a compromise on fishing.
“In all honesty, it’s sometimes feels that we will not be able to resolve this question.
“But we must continue to try to find a solution. It is the only responsible and right course of action.”
A UK official said: “We’ve made some progress, but we are still very far apart in key areas.”
Furious French fisherman have threatened to blockade the Channel if they are barred from fishing in UK water.
But in an escalating row, the Defence Secretary vowed to protect British fisherman with the “full might” of the Navy.
And despite her hope for a deal, Ms von der Leyen also threw down an ultimatum yesterday, warning that Britain will face years of legal wrangling if a deal is not struck in time.
HOPE FOR A DEAL
In a phone call on Monday the Commission chief warned Boris Johnson this is a now-or-never chance to clinch a tariff and quota free pact.
The first shoots of hope for a Brexit breakthrough comes as MPs were being readied to vote for a possible trade deal at the beginning of next week.
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said it is “theoretically possible” a deal could be struck on New Year’s Eve and then voted on by MPs in January.
He warned such a move would leave “a gap in the domestic legal effect of the treaty” but ministers could even “ignore the law for a week”.
The leading Brexiteer added ratification of the trade agreement should normally take six days “but that can be squeezed” if necessary.
He pointed out Parliament rushed through the removal of King Edward VIII in just 24 hours and “can act very quickly”.
And on the talks, he insisted that “there is no last moment until Big Ben strikes” on December 31.
Brussels is also preparing the ground for euro MPs to vote on the pact early next year.
The bloc’s negotiator Michel Barnier has told EU insiders this could result in a “short” period of No Deal at the start of January.
Senior Government sources told the Telegraph that Boris Johnson is getting ready to push back the Christmas recess if a deal is signed by the weekend.
MPs could be asked to sit on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week and even December 24, to get through last minute legislation to sign off a deal.
Source: The Sun