A Brexit deal between the UK and the EU is very close to completion, politicians on both sides of the table said this morning.
However, the prospect of reaching an agreement is still in doubt, said the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier.
“Ninety per cent of the accord on the table has been agreed with Britain,” Barnier told France Inter radio.
“I’m convinced a deal is necessary, I’m still not sure we’ll get one,” he said.
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt added that “one or two” issues remained between the UK and the bloc, but that negotiators had resolved everything else.
“There are all sorts of difficulties and compromises that all sides are making,” added Hunt in an interview on Radio 4’s Today programme.
He also said the EU has recently adopted “a more constructive approach” to the negotiations when asked about his criticism of the EU at the Conservative party conference, at which he likened it to the Soviet Union, claiming it wants to punish the UK for leaving.
Both sides are yet to reach agreement on how to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland following Brexit.
While the EU would like Northern Ireland to remain inside the customs union until a permanent solution is agreed, the UK’s proposal would see the UK as a whole stay in a customs plan with the EU as a temporary measure.
Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday backpedalled on a proposal to delay Brexit by a year by extending the transition period to 2021.
Tory MPs lashed out at the plans, pointing out this would see the UK pay into the EU without having a say in EU decisions.
Negotiations appeared to hit a deadlock in Brussels this week, but Hunt attributed this to the Prime Minister refusing to yield to the EU’s desire to keep Ireland in the customs union.
“Theresa May has not buckled, she has stood firm,” he said.