Brexit: EU trade deal is still possible, says Dominic Raab

Ursula von der Leyen

Speaking after the first day of the European Council summit, the EU's negotiator Michel Barnier had indicated willingness to pursue "intensive" talks in London next week and Brussels the week after.

"The EU has signalled its desire to carry on talks".

The EU had prepared time during this summit for a discussion among the EU's 27 leaders about a trade deal - but a draft deal hasn't been created yet, with wide gaps remaining between the two sides on State aid and fisheries.

The EU has warned it will not leave the matter to be solved last and that it could only be part of a wider deal together with issues like energy ties or financial services where London has a weaker bargaining position than on fishing rights.

"I have concluded that we should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia's based on simple principles of global free trade", Johnson said.

Asked if he was walking away from talks, Johnson said: "If there's a fundamental change of approach, of course we always willing to listen, but it didn't seem particularly encouraging from the summit in Brussels".

Brussels in turn stresses that Britain's economy is far more integrated with and closer to the EU's than Canada's, and that its single market must be protected from British backsliding.

With both sides digging in their heels as another deadline passed Thursday, the European Union and Britain demanded concessions from one another in talks on a basic trade deal that would soften the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic for all.

The EU says a deal must come in early November at the latest to allow time for ratification by its parliament and some national chambers.

"As far as I can see they have abandoned the idea of a free trade deal".

In a document issued during the summit in Brussels this week, the European Union said progress in key areas was now "not sufficient" to reach a deal and asked EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator, Michel Barnier, to "continue negotiations in the coming weeks".

After Mr Johnson's bid to undercut the 2020 Brexit divorce treaty, there are fears that London is employing what one European diplomat said was Madman Theory - a reference to former United States president Richard Nixon's attempt to convince Moscow that he was irrational during the Cold War in the 1970s.

Britain's chief negotiator David Frost responded on Twitter.

There was optimism from Ireland's foreign affairs minister who said he believed a deal could be done but it would take a couple of weeks as the two sides are now "miles apart" on the issue of fisheries.

Months of talks have ground to a halt on the issues of fishing - highly symbolic for maritime nations on both sides - and rules to ensure common regulatory standards and fair competition.

"Under any circumstance, our fishermen should not be sacrificed for Brexit", he said.

"They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fisheries, in a way that is obviously unacceptable to an independent country", Johnson said.