Michel Barnier sets NEW Brexit deadline – No deal looms if agreement not clinched in hours

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The Brussels diplomat has told colleagues if a trade pact isn’t reached by Christmas Eve both sides will have to prepare for a “short no deal period”. He told MEPs after the festive period there would no longer be time to complete the legal processes for provisional application of the treaty. According to a leaked memo, seen by Express.co.uk, Mr Barnier said: “What happens if we have an agreement, not this week but next week – and we can no longer get it ratified?

“There’s no more time, we can no longer go through the provisional application… well what will we do then? We have to manage this short no deal period for a few weeks as well as we can.”

This is because EU lawyers still need time to draft a letter asking the UK for permission to provisionally apply any trade deal.

They estimate that the process could take as long as four days to complete in order to meet the legal requirements.

Under the plan to provisionally apply the Brexit trade deal, the agreement would enter into force for January 1 but the EU Parliament wouldn’t officially vote to rubber-stamp it until the New Year.

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Officials are now more confident an agreement can be found with Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen injecting political firepower into the process.

The Prime Minister is in “close contact” with the European Commission President as both sides push for a breakthrough before the looming deadline.

It is understood Mrs von der Leyen is so keen to wrap up a deal that she is now heavily lobbying EU coastal states to accept a compromise on fishing.

The Brussels boss was said to have kept Michel Barnier in the dark over the phone call with Mr Johnson amid concerns her chief negotiator is not willing to offer more ground to Britain.

Mrs von der Leyen is likely to speak with key figures, such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, as the talks continue with Lord Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator, who arrived wearing a mask for the latest round of negotiations.

But the talks remained stuck last night over fishing quotas.

Mr Barnier told diplomats that most issues were settled but differences on access remained “difficult to bridge”.

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He suggested the EU’s view was the UK is “not moving enough yet to clinch a fair deal on fisheries”.

Downing Street sources rejected suggestions the Government is planning to compromise on fishing access.

It followed reports the PM proposed that EU boats should hand back 30-35 percent by value of their current catches in Britain’s coastal waters, to be phased in over five years.

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That is down from an initial demand for a 60 percent cut over three years, but the compromise was reportedly rejected by Brussels.

Mr Barnier said a “final push” was underway to reach a deal and talks were at a “crucial moment”.

A British official dismissed suggestions talks could be extended after the transition period ends on December 31.

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