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EU Brexit negotiator Barnier remains doubtful about a deal being done in time

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Michel Barnier on Victoria Street, London, during a break in talks as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 28, 2020. Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Michel Barnier on Victoria Street, London, during a break in talks as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 28, 2020. Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Michel Barnier on Victoria Street, London, during a break in talks as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal. PA Photo. Picture date: Wednesday October 28, 2020. Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that there is no guarantee of a trade deal with Britain as time is running out.

As Brexit trade talks continued in London Mr Barnier briefed EU member state ambassadors in Brussels via videolink.

"We are quickly approaching a make or break moment in the Brexit talks," Mr Barnier told the 27 EU envoys, a Brussels official revealed.

"Intensive negotiations are continuing in London, but as of this morning it is still unclear whether negotiators can bridge the gaps on issues like level playing field, governance and fisheries," Mr Barnier continued.

Some diplomats said Mr Barnier believed the outcome of the eight months of talks would be decided in the next few days, possibly late on Thursday or Friday. UK officials are not committed to any formal deadline but they privately agree the next few days could be crucial.

One EU diplomat soke of "frustration" about the delays and continuing uncertainty. "As of today we're not able to say whether there will be an agreement or not," the diplomat remarked.

Some member states, including France and Netherlands, are afraid that the EU side will concede too much just to get a last-minute deal. So the briefing by Mr Barnier was in part seen as a move to calm nerves and reassure that no undue concessions will be made to the UK and core EU interests will be defended.

But not all the ambassadors were entirely convinced. "I am not sure what Barnier said managed to assuage concerns. Bridging the divide would require too big a leap," one diplomat told the French news agency, AFP.

Any deal needs ratification by EU member states as well as the British and European parliaments, a process that would begin after about two weeks of translation and legal scrutiny.

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