Post-Brexit trade negotiations between the EU and the UK could continue until Wednesday, on the eve of a European summit, in what may be the final opportunity to reach an agreement.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier set this deadline during a briefing with Members of European Parliament.
Thursday’s European summit, then, could mark the presentation of the broad outlines of an agreement, or the preparation of emergency measures, depending on how trade negotiations go in the days to come.
Barnier resumed discussions with British negotiator David Frost in Brussels on Monday. An EU diplomat said that the EU was ready to take another step towards an agreement, and that it was up to the UK to choose between a positive outcome or a no-deal in the trade negotiations, according to Belga News Agency.
“Time is obviously in very short supply,” said a spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “We are in the final stages, but we are prepared to negotiate for as long as we have time available if we think an agreement is still possible.”
If not, the EU and UK will have to apply World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, meaning higher tariffs and extensive customs controls, from 1 January 2021. While the UK officially left the EU at the end of January, it remains within the EU’s customs and internal market in a transition phase until the end of the year.