Although Britain technically left the EU on January 31, its relationship with the EU remains the same in practice until the end of the transition period on December 31, 2020.
As it stands, the Government does not have a deal. However, a final agreement is looking increasingly likely after the European Parliament has set a deadline of Sunday 20 December.
After lengthy disagreements and an apparent stalemate, Ursula von der Leyen has claimed there is a “path to an agreement now”.
Speaking in Brussels on December 16, the European Commission President said she could still not guarantee “whether there will be a deal or not” but added: “the path may be very narrow but it is there.”
It comes after The Telegraph disclosed that MPs have been primed to vote for a possible Brexit trade deal at the beginning of next week as hopes rise of a breakthrough in Brussels.
Senior Government sources have confirmed that Boris Johnson is preparing to push back the Christmas recess should he secure an agreement with the EU by the weekend.
Ursula von der Leyen, the EU chief, announced on December 13, that talks with the Prime Minister would continue after a weekend of negotiations, despite the deadline which was set for that Sunday.
Mrs Leyen stressed that both she and Mr Johnson felt it would be responsible at this point in time to “go the extra mile” despite the “exhaustion” and missed deadlines.
Furthermore, after a day of negotiation with the President of the European Commission on December 13, Mr Johnson also added: “Let’s see what we can achieve. But in the meantime, get ready, with confidence, for January 1 – trade on WTO terms if we have to.”
A Brexit trade deal could be agreed this week if Britain compromises over fishing rights, the European Union’s chief negotiator said on Monday. As talks continued in Brussels, Michel Barnier said the UK had moved towards the EU’s demands for level playing field guarantees in the trade agreement.
However, Mr Johnson will send MPs home for the holidays on Thursday, December 17, in an attempt to add pressure on Brussels as the Brexit negotiations enter their endgame.
This marks Mr Johnson’s signal to the EU that he is not prepared to succumb to their demands over the question of fishing, despite Ursula von der Leyen hinting that it was the final obstacle preventing a deal on Wednesday, December 16.
Despite this, Downing Street announced that while they plan to observe the usual Christmas recess, they would work “at pace” so that the ratification would be complete before the transition period ends.
A spokesperson announced they would recall MPs and peers “to legislate for a deal if one is secured” and the recall could take place as early as “next week”.
Downing Street also moved to dim hopes that a deal was on the horizon, following comments from the President of the EU, which said there was a “narrow path” to striking the zero-tariff, zero-quota deal before the deadline at the end of 2020.
Boris Johnson said “Mr Johnson said: “There’s a good deal there to be done, but if not, WTO, Australia terms it is and as I say we will prosper mightily on those terms as well. We’ve just got to make sure that we control our laws and control our own waters.”
Mr Johnson’s attempts to negotiate directly with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron were rebuffed three times in a week, prompting him to warn a no-deal outcome to Brexit talks is now “very, very likely”.
Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, had already predicted the negotiations would go beyond the December 13 deadline. Speaking to BBC News, he shared that the decision to extend the talks was already on the table, even before the deadline had passed.
On December 9, the Prime Minister failed to bridge “very large gaps” during a three-hour meeting with Mrs von der Leyen in Brussels.
Mr Johnson said he did not want to “leave any route to a possible deal untested” but was downbeat about the chances of an agreement.
This comes before sources from the EU suggested they will impose “lightning tariffs” if the UK breaches the terms of a deal. This is, supposedly, one of the most significant obstacles in preventing a trade agreement.