Michel Barnier pleads for MORE TIME in Brexit talks as crunch point nears

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Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has pleaded with MEPs “for some flexibility in the timetable for ratification”, according to Brussels insiders. The European Parliament has warned the Frenchman it will need at least six weeks in order to complete the formalities to rubber-stamp any post-Brexit trade deal. But in a private meeting with the institution’s Brexit committee, Mr Barnier said there had been a lack of progress despite a fortnight of intensified talks with UK counterpart Lord Frost.

The Brussels diplomat claimed he was uncertain whether progress would be made ahead of the current deadline for a deal in mid-November, sources familiar with the meeting said.

He asked for a “degree of flexibility” in the timetable to ensure the talks end in an agreement, one insider said.

“I find the weight of responsibility on my shoulders to find an agreement,” Mr Barnier said, according to the source.

At least one MEP was said to be furious with the request and insisted the European Parliament should be given adequate time to scrutinise any Brexit deal before it is voted on.

David McAllister, chair of the Parliament’s Brexit committee, said giving MEPs “sufficient time to scrutinise” the deal was crucial.

He added: “Completion of a deal clearly requires additional time.

“We will take our democratic responsibility seriously.

“We have been in permanent contact with Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his team, as well as with our Council counterparts.

“We are all keenly aware that completing a consent procedure requires time, and would like to urge all parties to allow for a thorough democratic scrutiny of the future agreement.”

Both the UK and the EU were said to be far apart on the key stumbling blocks of fisheries access and future common standards after two weeks of non-stop negotiations.

They will take a short break until Sunday before resuming talks in London.

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But Mr Barnier and Lord Frost’s most senior deputies are expected to continue work to overcome differences on the level-playing field and governance.

The Frenchman said: “Despite EU efforts to find solutions, very serious divergences remain in Level Playing Field, Governance & Fisheries.

“These are essential conditions for any economic partnership.”

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And Lord Frost also said: “We’ve just finished two weeks of intensive talks with the EU.

“Progress made, but I agree with Michel Barnier that wide divergences remain on some core issues.

“We continue to work to find solutions that fully respect UK sovereignty.”

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