PUBLISHED: 15:42, Wed, Dec 2, 2020 | UPDATED: 15:42, Wed, Dec 2, 2020
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has claimed the next 36 hours of trade talks with the UK will be crucial. As he briefed EU ambassadors and members of the European Parliament, he made clear that the two sides have not yet overcome their divisions.He said Brussels and London need to assess by the end of this week whether there is a possibility to reach agreement, warning that key sticking points remain in the areas of “level playing field” conditions for business, EU fishing rights in UK waters and how any trade deal might be implemented.
Mr Barnier cautioned: "As issues stand, it is not possible to say if a deal will be there."
The meeting was arranged after France and other EU members started raising serious doubts behind the scenes about the direction of talks.
In a sign of stoking internal divisions, diplomats were concerned that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who is receiving daily updates on the talks, could be tempted to compromise too much to secure a deal.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
One EU diplomat said Mr Barnier’s briefing “was mostly an exercise to calm nerves in Paris and elsewhere”.
Despite these recent claims, some EU member states are actually against the idea of not finding a compromise with Britain.
Germany has recently softened its position, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel urging negotiators to find common ground.
Italy has also called for the two sides to do "the right thing".
Italy’s PM broke ranks with Barnier calling for special Brexit trade deal with UK (Image: GETTY)
After all, it was former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni who famously broke ranks with EU hardliners in 2017, calling for a special, "tailor-made" Brexit trade deal.
In an interview in Rome on the first anniversary of his arrival at Palazzo Chigi, he said: "We need a tailor-made model for the relationship between the UK and the EU but the first move, in my opinion, has to come from the UK because the level of ambition needs to come from the side asking to leave."
Mr Gentiloni’s emphasis on a bespoke model rather than an agreement following the precedent of previous trade deals contrasts with other EU officials.
At the time, Brussels had argued that the UK faced a choice between remaining within the bloc’s single market, like Norway, or pursuing a more goods-oriented trade agreement.
The former Italian Prime Minister added: "There can be models of reference based on deals the EU has with third countries but these were all done . . . building off a white sheet, tabula rasa . . .Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
"Here we are doing the opposite — removing things from a 40-year-old structure of extraordinary relationships — and this operation is objectively unprecedented and complicated."
While all trade deals are adjusted to take account of the