Thursday 15 October 2020 2:38 pm

Brexit: Macron and Merkel clash over hopes for UK trade deal

Hopes for a trade deal with the EU remained ambiguous at today’s EU summit, with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel disagreeing over whether the UK will secure a deal before the Brexit deadline. 

Macron told a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels today: “I hope to finalise a Brexit deal in the coming weeks”, but issued a stark warning to the UK that “it’s possible we won’t have a deal”.

Read more: UK’s £225bn professional services industry risks ‘catastrophic’ hit from Brexit

Merkel locked heads with the French leader, telling the summit: “We want a deal but not at any price”.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin also weighed in, warning that a no-deal Brexit would deliver a double blow on the backdrop of the pandemic. 

“With Covid-19 having such a devastating impact on society and on the economies in the United Kingdom and across Europe, obviously leaders will not want to hit citizens with a shock a no-deal would represent,” said Martin.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had originally earmarked today’s summit as the deadline for reaching an “outline” of an UK-EU trade deal, saying that he would walk away from negotiations if an agreement had not been reached by 15 October.

The PM yesterday told European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen he was disappointed more progress had not been made, but that he would not abandon discussions.

A spokesperson for the PM said Britain would reflect on today’s meeting before deciding next steps. 

“We’ve always been clear that a negotiated outcome is our preference,” they said.

EU leaders yesterday signaled they were keen to hold an emergency Brexit summit in mid-November to give their blessing to any trade deal.

If the UK does not strike a deal within the next few weeks, Britain will leave the single market on 1 January without a deal.

Read more: Brexit: No deal could ground UK-EU flights, Grant Shapps admits

Number 10 yesterday said progress had been made in a number of areas, while the key sticking points of fisheries, enforcement of a trade agreement and future state subsidies policy hung heavy on the negotiating table.

The 27 EU heads said they will now scale up contingency plans for an abrupt split if a no-deal Brexit becomes the most likely option.