Boris Johnson prepares significant Brexit intervention as negotiators begin the 'final push'

is preparing to make a significant intervention in the Brexit trade talks this week as negotiators begin the “final push” before a deadline in eight days’ time.

The Prime Minister is expected to speak to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in an attempt to clear away the final barriers to a deal which both sides now believe is well within reach.

Agreements on fishing and state aid remain the two stumbling blocks, and EU leaders have set a deadline of Tuesday next week for all remaining disagreements to be resolved.

Ministers had hoped an agreement in principle would already be in place by now, but the timetable was set back after Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier was forced into Covid self-isolation, meaning face-to-face talks had to be paused.

One source close to the negotiations suggested the enforced break had been a blessing in disguise, as it gave the exhausted teams time to “pause and reflect” on how they could overcome the knotty problems standing in their path.

Face-to-face talks are expected to restart on Thursday, giving the teams a maximum of six days to thrash out a deal before the deadline expires.

A source on the UK side of the talks said: “Both sides seem to think we will get there, but nothing is certain and will not water down his demands in order to get a deal.

“The negotiators are nearly there on an awful lot of things, but the areas of disagreement – state aid in particular – cuts across a lot of other areas.

“We are not in the final moments yet but this week will see the start of the final push.

“I would expect that at some point this week the Prime Minister or Ursula von der Leyen will have to make an intervention.”

The transition period that began after Britain formally left the EU at the end of January will expire at midnight on December 31, leaving little time for lawyers to draw up the final text of a deal and the Parliaments of Britain and the 27 EU member states to ratify it.

While the UK Parliament could be made to sit through the Christmas break to pass the necessary legislation, EU member states have made it clear they would not be prepared to do so.

Reports of a special sitting in Brussels between Christmas and New Year to ratify a deal have been dismissed as fanciful.

On Sunday, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, insisted there would not be a Brexit trade deal “at any price”, adding that coronavirus would have a much bigger impact on the economy than a no-trade-deal Brexit.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “I think we’ve been reasonably consistent and transparent throughout the process about our asks, which by the way are very simple. 

“We just want pretty much the same treatment as most other countries that do trade deals with the EU get. So hopefully we can find a constructive place. But I’m very confident about the British economy in all circumstances.”

He added: “I’d agree with what the Prime Minister has said, that in the short term specifically and most immediately it would be preferable to have a deal because it would ease things in the short term. 

“But we should not be going for a deal at any price.”

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