Boris Johnson will step in today in the hope he can break the deadlock in crisis talks with Eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen. No 10 stressed there is little time to save the negotiations as the prospect of no-deal loomed closer. But top officials admitted last night that “significant divergences” remain despite a week of intense talks. In a joint statement, Lord Frost and EU counterpart Michel Barnier laid bare the deep divisions. They said: “After one week of intense negotiations in London, we agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.”
The talks have now been put on pause while Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen are briefed by their teams before they speak later.
The Prime Minister and European Commission president will speak this evening after a rocky 48 hours in the negotiations.
Lord Frost and Mr Barnier spent yesterday scrambling to save the trade talks after French interference halted progress.
Insiders said it will be a “genuine challenge” to make a breakthrough and vital discussions are now two days behind.
Mr Barnier’s attempts to appease France by making extra demands in the negotiations “pulled us back” just as a potential landing zone for a deal had emerged, according to the UK source.
Downing Street said the talks remained at a very difficult point and warned time is in very short supply.
A No10 spokesman said: “We are committed to working hard to try and reach an agreement with the EU.
“For a deal with the EU to be possible, it must fully respect UK sovereignty, that includes controlling our borders, deciding on a robust and principled subsidy control system and controlling our fishing waters.”
Negotiators believe a deal must be struck this weekend in order to have it in place before transition arrangements end on December 31.
But the talks were thrown off course on Thursday after the EU put new demands on the negotiating table after French fears over rules on state aid subsidies.
But Angela Merkel last night insisted the EU would have to give more ground in order to clinch an agreement.
The German Chancellor’s spokesman said the bloc should be ready to compromise as time runs out.