Brexit talks 'paused' without agreement as clock ticks down

British and EU negotiators have agreed to “pause” talks on a post-Brexit trade deal amid continuing “significant divergences” on key issues.

A Brexit trade deal between the EU and UK is “imminent”, an official has claimed.
A Brexit trade deal between the EU and UK is “imminent”, an official has claimed.

Michel Barnier and Lord Frost said they had suspended discussions while they brief Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on the state of play.

Releasing identical statements on Twitter, they said: "After one week of intense negotiation in London, the two chief negotiators agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.

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"On this basis, they agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their principals on the state of play of the negotiations."

EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Westminster for the talks

Mr Johnson will meet with Ms Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday afternoon.

The UK and the EU talks had resumed on Friday facing an uphill battle with a senior UK government source insisting the chance of a breakthrough was "receding".

That came despite more optimism from some in Brussels, with one anonymous official insisting that barring a last-minute collapse a deal would be agreed by the end of the weekend.

Downing Street was bullish over the chances of a deal, and pointedly further negotiations were “contingent” on progress on Friday.

Boris Johnson’s deputy spokesman said: "We are committed to working hard to try and reach an agreement with the EU and talks are ongoing.

"Time is in short supply, we're at a very difficult point.

“Teams are working intensively to try and bridge the gaps that remain.

"What is certain is that we will not be able to agree a deal that doesn’t respect our fundamental principles on sovereignty and taking back control."

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A senior UK government source had accused the EU of "bringing new elements into the negotiation" at the "11th hour".

One EU official insisted the claims were just spin to make the UK look strong ahead of any potential concessions.

An EU source added there had never been "any surprises" from their side during negotiations.

Fears of the talks failing had seen the pound wobble on Friday morning, until soaring to its highest point of the day following the suggestion a deal was imminent.

Both sides have been deadlocked for months over the same issues, and so far remain unable to find an agreement on fishing rights or level playing field rules.

A further stumbling block has also emerged in the French, with the country’s Europe minister Clement Beaune warning his government could "veto" any deal if it did not meet their demands on fishing.

He said: “I still hope we can have a deal but I also say to our fishermen, to our producers, to our citizens, that we won’t accept a bad deal.

“Yes, each country has a veto, so it's possible. France like all its partners has the means of a veto.

“We must make our own evaluation of course of this deal, that’s normal.

“We owe that to the French people, we owe it to our fishermen, and to other economic sectors.”

Mr Beaune added that the risk of no deal remained.

He added: “We mustn’t hide it because there are businesses, our fishermen, citizens who need to know and so we must prepare for a risk of no deal.”

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