Brexit talks could drag on past Christmas and up to NEW YEAR – as EU war breaks out over control of talks
BREXIT talks could drag on past Christmas and up to NEW YEAR as EU chiefs went to war last night in a power struggle over talks.
Boris Johnson will head to Brussels for dinner tonight to try and rescue a Brexit deal as he hinted discussions could go through the festive season.
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Mr Johnson vowed to push talks "to the wire" yesterday, as he prepares to meet EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen this evening.
But he admitted getting a deal done after Christmas would be "tricky".
Any deal will need to be signed and backed by both Westminster and the EU Parliament before New Years, sparking fears of weeks of festive back and forth.
The PM said issues such as control over fish in British waters – which French President Emmanuel Macron is threatening to blow up a potential deal over – are looking "very, very difficult" to work through.
He said him and his negotiating team are "will do their level best".
"The UK Government's position is we're willing to engage at any level, whether political or otherwise, we're willing to try anything.
"But there are limits, beyond which obviously, any independent Government or country could go."
Cabinet office minister Michael Gove said the PM's dinner with Ms von der Leyen was a chance "thrash out" a final deal.
He stressed that there will need to be a "degree of movement" from the bloc's hardline stance on sticking points such as fishing rights, state backed subsidies for businesses and regulatory alignment with the EU.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Gove said this morning: '"It is often around the table, when you have two political principals one-on-one, that you can often find a way through."
But in-fighting amongst EU chiefs broke out last night over how far to move to get a deal with Britain.
Brussels sources said EU negotiator Michel Barnier and Ms von der Leyen are in a power struggle over the negotiations ahead of the Brussels meeting.
There are fears from other European leaders that Ms von der Leyen, who is close to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will go soft in an attempt to seal a final deal.
Ms Merkel insisted today she still saw a "chance" for a deal, but warned it would not be on terms "unacceptable" to the bloc.
She warned any agreement "must not endanger the integrity of the common market", referring to the fault lines between negotiators over a so-called "level playing field", which would tie Britain to EU rules.
However Mr Barnier warned EU foreign ministers last night that a no deal Brexit is more likely.
Yesterday Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost and Mr Barnier drew up a list of outstanding areas of disagreement over fishing, red tape and state backed subsidies for businesses.
But one cabinet minister told The Sun the stark list would help Brussels force the PM to make “a number of unpleasant choices” in order to keep the flagging talks alive and avoid No Deal chaos.
And Mr Johnson's colleagues were worried Ms von der Leyen would serve up a grim “menu of climb downs” if he wanted to keep talks going.
The PM warned he was already at the “limit” on what he could accept as a Brexit deal and could yet “draw stumps' if there is no progress tonight.
“Our friends have just got to understand the UK has left the EU in order to be able to exercise democratic control over the way we do things,” he added.
“There is also the issue of fisheries where we are still a long way apart still. But hope springs eternal, I will do my best to sort it out if we can.”
Last night hopes of a breakthrough were bolstered by the UK finally agreeing to drop a threat to tear up last year’s divorce deal in a row over Northern Ireland.
Both sides backed down on a bizarre row over blocking imports and exports of cold meat between Ireland and Northern Ireland dubbed the “banger war”.
Brussels also dropped demands for an EU Embassy in Belfast forever to oversee Euro officials who will be allowed to roam Ulster making sure rules are kept.
Mr Gove last night branded Maroš Šefčovič “the sausage king of Brussels” as they shook on tied up loose ends from last years deal.
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