CHANCES of a Brexit deal before Sunday are “less than 50 per cent”, Michael Gove said today, as the EU came up with yet another deadline.
As trade talks hurtle into the final days, the Cabinet Office minister said it was still more likely that there will be a No Deal, despite Michel Barnier insisting there had been “good progress”.
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Giving evidence to the Commons Brexit Committee, Mr Gove said the “most likely outcome” was that the current transition period would end on December 31 without a deal.
He warned: “I think, regrettably, the chances are more likely that we won’t secure an agreement. So at the moment less than 50%.”
While negotiations continue to progress, there are still “significant” differences between both sides.
He went on: “It is certainly the case that there are fewer areas of difference now than there were in October or indeed July.
“The areas of difference are still significant and they do go to the very heart of the mandate which the country gave the Government in 2016.”
He also said there would be no discussions next year if Britain and the EU fail to seal a pact now. Britain will leave on World Trade Organisation terms, which would mean extra costs for both sides through new tariffs.
Mr Barnier said today there had been “good progress” in trade talks but that the “last stumbling blocks remain”.
He has been locked in talks with UK negotiator David Frost in a final push to reach a deal.
He told the European Parliament today: “We will only sign a deal protecting EU interests and principles.”
The EU Parliament today handed Britain a final deadline of this Sunday to agree a Brexit deal, otherwise they will not approve it in time for January 1 – when the transition period ends.
And MPs in the House of Commons will leave Parliament for the Christmas break today, meaning they would need to be recalled in order for them to pass legislation.
Hopes had risen further that a breakthrough was imminent when the PM cancelled a foreign visit pencilled in for today.
Downing Street insisted the two sides were still far apart on fishing and a row over Brexit Britain undercutting the EU.
However, No 10 said MPs could still be recalled on Monday and Tuesday if decisive progress was made.
They ruled out sitting on Christmas Day, but any other time may see MPs pulled back to Westminster.
An emergency sitting will likely be needed between Christmas and the new year to hit the December 31 deadline.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said today “intensive talks are ongoing” and negotiators are working “day and night” to sign a deal.
He told MPs: “We’re going the extra mile in continuing the negotiations to see whether or not an agreement can be reached and we will continue to keep Parliament informed on our progress.”
“Even if sometimes results are coming later than we might have wanted, I know we will be doing everything in order to secure a good free trade agreement in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.”
And he put MPs on notice that the Government “will request the House returns” to pass new laws signing off the agreement before December 31 if a deal is agreed.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a hopeful, upbeat assessment of talks earlier this week, declaring there was a “path” to a deal, although a “very narrow” one.
Source: The Sun