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The EU chief Brexit negotiator held talks with EU ministers ahead of the crucial European Council summit on Thursday. During the discussions on Tuesday, Mr Barnier is understood to have dismissed Boris Johnson’s deadline of October 15 to reach a Brexit deal, suggesting it was the third time the Prime Minister had threatened Brussels with a cut-off date.
According to EU sources, Mr Barnier said: “It is the third unilateral deadline that Johnson has imposed without agreement.
“We still have time.”
Mr Johnson said in September there “needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it’s going to be in force by the end of the year”.
Speaking earlier in June, Mr Johnson insisted he wanted to see a post-Brexit trade talks concluded by the end of summer.
He said: “I certainly don’t want to see it going on until the autumn or winter.”
Following a General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting with EU chief Maros Sefcovic, Mr Barnier again suggested trade talks would go for “weeks” and beyond the Thursday deadline.
Writing on Twitter, he said: “At #GAC today with @MarosSefcovic to brief EU Minister on state of play of EU/UK negotiations and the implementation of the withdrawal agreement.
“Strong EU unity confirmed ahead of European Council.
“The EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks.”
Mr Barnier has held talks with EU chief negotiator David Frost in Brussels since Monday, but outstanding issues over fishing, state aid and governance remain.
Ahead of the EU Council summit tomorrow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has made an intervention and called on the EU to be realistic.
Speaking at a meeting with European mayors, Mrs Merkel said: “We are going to continue to stand together in these withdrawal talks.
“But we also have to take into account the reality: an agreement has to be in the interests of both parties, in British interests as well as the interests of the 27-member EU.”
Later this evening, the Prime Minister will hold a video call with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson would “need to take a decision on next steps” following the council meeting and in light of his conversation with Mrs von der Leyen.
Downing Street added progress has been made in some areas but an agreement on fishing remains the biggest obstacle.
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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Some progress has been made this week, primarily in technical areas of the negotiations, but there are still differences with fisheries being the starkest.
“We need to get the substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.
“The Prime Minister’s September 7 statement was very clear about the significance of October 15.
“He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team.”
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