Chief European Union negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that post-Brexit trade talks were at a “moment of truth” with just hours left to reach an agreement with Britain.
“It’s the moment of truth,” Mr Barnier told the European Parliament this morning.
“We have very little time remaining, just a few hours to work through these negotiations… if you want this agreement to enter into force on January 1.”
Talks continue in Brussels after the two sides warned that major obstacles remain despite progress in the talks.
British Prime Minster Boris Johnson said negotiations with the European Union are now in a serious situation and an agreement will not be reached unless the EU position changes substantially.
Mr Johnson’s comments came after a phone call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
In a notable hardening of rhetoric, Mr Johnson issued a lengthy statement, in which he said the UK was making every effort to accommodate what he called reasonable EU requests on the level playing field, but said some fundamental areas remained difficult.
On fisheries, he said the UK would not accept a position where it could not control access to its own waters for an extended period and be faced with fish quotas that hugely disadvantage its own industry.
He said the EU position was simply not reasonable and would have to shift significantly.
The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, said the talks were in a serious situation, with progress seemingly blocked and time running out.
In a much shorter statement, Ms von der Leyen said there has been some progress in the talks but bridging the gap on fisheries will be very challenging.
Earlier, British government minister Michael Gove said the prospects of a deal were now less than 50%.
There are also reports that the UK has raised the question of subjecting the EU’s €750bn Covid recovery fund to state aid rules.