Boris Johnson is not expecting to close an EU trade deal this week, with the UK’s Brexit negotiators aiming for a final breakthrough at some point next week.
Number 10 is eyeing off an all important meeting on 19 November of the European Council, with Johnson hoping EU leaders sign off on compromises needed to close a deal.
Time is running out for a deal to be agreed, with the UK set to leave the EU’s customs union and single market on 31 December.
Some media reports today have speculated that chief UK negotiator David Frost was expecting to reach agreement this week, with Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney also signaling that a breakthrough needed to happen in the coming days.
“We have got to make big progress this week, hopefully we have got to get the big issues resolved in principle this week,” he said.
However, a Number 10 spokesperson struck a less positive note today about an imminent breakthrough.
The biggest sticking points remain to be fisheries agreements and the so-called level playing field.
“The Prime Minister set out that the weekend that he is keen to secure a deal with the EU, but not at the cost of our core principles of sovereignty,” the spokersperon said.
“Significant issues do remain, particularly around fisheries and the so-called level playing field.
“David Frost and his team are working hard to find solutions that respect UK sovereignty, but it’s far from certain an agreement will prove possible and time is very short. Some key elements in the draft texts are not agreed yet.”
State subsidy regulations, which are a part of the level playing field talks, has been one of the largest barriers to a deal.
The EU wants the UK to mirror its regulatory regime for business subsidies, and other things like labour and environmental laws, in return for zero tariff trade.
However, the UK has made it clear that it does not want to be locked into EU state aid rules and wants to be able to have greater control of fiscal policy.
Brussels also started negotiations by demanding EU countries retain the same fishing rights to UK waters as they currently have, which Frost has said is untenable.