Britain will hold continuous negotiations with the EU from now on in a bid to achieve a breakthrough in Brexit talks.
Following a meeting with Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab in Brussels on Tuesday, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier revealed discussions are now entering the final stage.
We have agreed the EU and the UK will negotiate continuously from now on and Dominic and I will meet regularly to take stock and move the negotiations forward, he said.
Mr Barnier paved the way for negotiations to yet extend beyond the next formal European Council summit on 18 October, which had previously been viewed as a deadline for striking a deal.
He said a UK divorce agreement and political declaration on the future UK-EU partnership was needed “well before the end of the year” in order for it to be ratified on both sides.
Mr Barnier added: I am not going to say October, a few days here, beginning of November, but not much later than that certainly.
He also claimed recent talks had moved the EU and UK closer to an agreement on post-Brexit security and foreign policy co-operation, but signalled a deal on the future economic relationship remains elusive.
Our challenge for the coming weeks is to try and define an ambitious partnership between the UK and the EU a partnership that has no precedent, Mr Barnier said on Tuesday.
This partnership has to respect the single market and the foundations of the European project, and if this is well understood we can conclude the negotiations successfully.
Mr Barnier repeated the EU would not bend its principles in order to satisfy British demands.
Speaking at a news conference alongside the European Commission official, Mr Raab admitted there are still gaps between the two sides, but that he and Mr Barnier had held an honest conversation about those.
If we have that ambition, that pragmatism and that energy on both sides, I’m confident we can reach that agreement by October, Mr Raab said.
He added: There are still some significant issues to overcome yes on Northern Ireland, I think we both recognise that but also on the future relationship.
We agreed that we need to step up the intensity of the negotiations as we come into the final phase and we have agreed to meet regularly and resolve at the political level those outstanding issues that remain under technical consideration.