Talk of a chaotic British split from the European Union grew on Tuesday with just three weeks left to break a deadlock in trade deal negotiations, with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that the two sides may have to accept “no deal”.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, told a meeting of the bloc’s ministers that he believed a no-deal scenario at the end of the year was now more likely than an agreement on trade ties, an EU official and two diplomats told Reuters.
Deepening the gloom, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said that unless there was a breakthrough “in the next day or two”, EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday would have to discuss contingency plans for the economic disruption a rupture with no trade accord would bring.
“Unfortunately we are facing the prospect of a no-deal Brexit if something doesn’t break that in the next day or two,” Martin told parliament in Dublin.
Johnson will meet Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive European Commission, for dinner in Brussels on Wednesday to try and close gaps their negotiators have struggled with for months.
But the language on both sides has hardened, and both have called on the other to compromise ahead of a meeting that is widely seen as a last throw of the dice.
Britain formally left the EU in January, but has since been in a transition period during which it remains in the EU single market and customs union, meaning that rules on trade, travel and business have stayed the same.