The EU-UK trade deal could be concluded by tomorrow, according to well-placed observers…and a late evening pizza delivery to government offices.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg is among those believing that “several sources have told me on Wednesday that the process is likely to be concluded in the next few days”.
The Sun quotes an EU source as saying a deal is likely by tomorrow (Friday 4 December).
With negotiators working late into the night at a London underground conference centre they call ‘the cave’, pizzas arrived to keep them going.
Reuters quoted today a source saying the next 24-48 hours would be “crucial” towards getting a deal.
Won’t please all
If this is a sign that a deal is imminent, Kuenssberg warns that it is unlikely to find solutions to every single issue that will placate both sides.
With the number of days left for parliament to sit, a deal cannot be concluded in time if it does not get going next week.
There could also still be storm clouds ahead in the shape of the Internal Market Bill which returns to parliament next week, and a related Taxation Bill which would break the Northern Ireland Protocol, reports the BBC.
Those draft laws could provoke such a storm in the EU that they could torpedo the talks at the last moment, said Kuenssberg.
Whether a deal is done or not, the BBC is exploring the vexed issue of how ready the UK is for Brexit in an episode of the Briefing Room tonight – available on BBC Sounds.
Fishing rights are still being thrashed out and Irish state broadcaster RTE reports that both sides are trying to negotiate a resolution by adopting a different approach. Rather than focusing on the total percentage of fish that EU vessels will be able to catch, sources said the UK is seeking to link access to what is termed the Total Allowable Catch (TAC).
This would mean annual talks on how many of 100 species can be caught. However, the EU is concerned that the UK will deny access to vessels if quotas for a given species are not agreed.
“The EU wants stability and the knowledge that EU boats can go into UK waters annually without having to go through an access negotiation every year,” said one diplomat.
Barnier to hang tough
Meanwhile, EU members are pressurising their negotiator, Michel Barnier, to gain concessions from the UK, according to the FT.
France, The Netherlands and Denmark warned that too much was being conceded to the UK and that it was better to let talks drag on than go for a swift resolution this week.
“Substance beats timetable,” said one EU diplomat. “There is no need to conclude with bad terms.”