Looming deadline sparks EU panic as Brussels launches plot to ‘trick’ UK into extension

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The EU are plotting to “trick” the UK into extending the talks as the Brexit trade negotiations enter their final week. There is panic among insiders in Brussels that the talks will collapse without a deal next weekend. Newsnight’s Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban told BBC’s Dateline panel programme that there will soon be some “extraordinary EU tricks” to extend the talks.

Mr Urban told Dateline: “There is a clearly strong desire inside the EU not to let this go, not to walk away from these talks.

“But nevertheless, the time is very, very short.

“That is why I think what we may end up seeing quite soon is suggestions of some of those extraordinary EU tricks like stopping the clock.

“They will in some way come up with a form of transition that is not a transition by name.

“In the short term this will ease the ratification process through the European Parliament and national parliament in the UK.”

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He continued: “People are talking about having to come to a conclusion by the European summit the week after this coming one.

“That leaves very little time. So, increasingly I think people will start to look at can we avoid falling off a cliff edge of this trading relationship, by extending in some way.

“There may be some sort of implementation period to get all those customs checks in place.”

This comes as Domininc Raab warned this morning that unless there is “flexibility” from the EU on fishing regulations, UK negotiators may have to settle for a no-deal Brexit.

He told LBC today: “It doesn’t serve their interest because European fishermen will have no access to British waters if there’s no deal.”

At the start of what is understood to be the final week of trade negotiations, No 10 has warned that a “significant gap” still remains on fisheries, adding: “No-deal is arguably underpriced.”

Multiple sources in the UK Government said that the Brexit talks are likely to be concluded by next weekend.

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One source told the Telegraph that they should be resolved “one way or another” this week.

The comments signal a toughening of the UK’s position on the talks which have dragged on for months.

There remains an ongoing deadlock over issues such as fishing rights, governance of the agreement, and the “level playing field” conditions which would prevent unfair competition.

Both the UK and EU need to pass in law the details of any trade treaty before the end of a transition period on December 31.

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