Boris Johnson has told French President Emmanuel Macron that there are still “significant gaps” to be bridged to seal a post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal.
A statement released by Downing Street said the Prime Minister told Macron on a phone call yesterday that he needed to see progress in the coming days, “notably in the areas of fisheries and the level playing field”.
Chief UK negotiator Lord David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier are now holding crunch Brexit trade deal talks, with time running out to secure a deal.
Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen set the deadline for talks as the end of October.
However, Johnson has told Frost that he needs to be able to see a deal is possible by 15 October or else he will walk away from negotiations.
The two largest barriers to a deal have been disagreements over state subsidy regulations – as a part of the wider level playing field talks – and EU access to UK fishing waters.
Frost said at a parliamentary committee meeting on Wednesday that some progress was being made on level playing field talks, but that fisheries policy was still the biggest area of disagreement.
Conservative sources told the Sunday Telegraph that it was up to Macron to make a “political decision” and compromise on fisheries to secure a trade deal.
The EU’s starting position in talks was to demand that the EU retains the same access it had to UK fishing waters as when Britain was still a member state – a position that Frost has repeatedly said is unacceptable.
The UK is looking to completely renegotiate and give the EU a far smaller quota of fish in its waters.
Speaking about yesterday’s Johnson-Macron call yesterday, a Downing Street spokesman said: “[Johnson] underlined that a deal was better for both sides, but also that the UK was prepared to end the transition period on Australia-style terms if an agreement could not be found.
“The Prime Minister emphasised that progress must be made in the coming days to bridge the significant gaps, notably in the areas of fisheries and the level playing field, through the process of intensive talks between chief negotiators agreed with the President of the European Commission.”