No-deal Brexit fears are rising with EU negotiators 'gloomy' about hopes of striking a trade deal with the UK

  • The UK risks leaving the EU without a trade deal with the continent in place after a weekend of intense negotiations failed to break the deadlock.
  • The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday morning offered a downbeat assessment of the chances of doing a deal in the 24 days that remain until the January 1 cliff edge.
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula don der Leyen will take stock of negotiations in a phone call on Monday evening.
  • Despite reports to the contrary, the two sides have not been able to agree on three key issues: fishing, a "level playing field," and how any final trade deal would be governed.
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The UK is on the brink of leaving the European Union without a free trade deal after a weekend of intense negotiations failed to produce a breakthrough.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday morning gave European ambassadors a gloomy assessment of the weekend talks in London, dismissing reports on Sunday night that the two sides had made a key breakthrough on the issue of fishing rights.

Hopes that two sides would be able to overcome their differences were dashed after negotiators failed to make a breakthrough on the thorny issues of fishing, preventing unfair competition between the two markets (also known as the "level playing field,") and how any final deal will be governed.

An EU source briefed on Barnier's private meeting with diplomats told Business Insider that the "same three issues remain," and that "Barnier's message is the same: Divergences exist but we continue [to negotiate.]"

Simon Coveney, Ireland's minister for foreign affairs, said this morning "really the news is very downbeat" and that "I would say he [Barnier] is very gloomy, and obviously very cautious about the ability to make progress today."

He said: "There was news last night on some media sources that there was a breakthrough on fishing. That is absolutely not the case from what we're hearing this morning.

"There really was no progress made yesterday, that's our understanding and so we've got to try to make a breakthrough at some point today, before the two principals, the Commission president and the prime minister speak later on this evening.

"Unfortunately, I'd like to be giving more positive news, but at the moment these negotiations seem stalled, and the barriers to progress are still very much in place."

Talks will continue on Monday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaking on the phone in the evening.

Leaked documents this week revealed internal UK government projections that a no-deal Brexit could cause severe shortages of medicines and other goods.

Johnson and von der Leyen will tonight decide whether to instruct their negotiating teams to continue with talks or instead ramp up preparations for a no-deal outcome in just 24 days' time.

The EU's appetite to continue negotiating is set to be tested on Monday when Johnson's government reinserts into the Internal Market Bill controversial clauses relating to Northern Ireland that would break international law.

The UK government plans to stick the clauses back into the legislation, despite warnings from Brussels that doing so will do more damage to trust between the two sides at a key juncture in the negotiations.

The Office for Budget Responsibility recently said that leaving the EU without a trade deal would reduce the UK's long-term economic output by six percentage points, due to the imposition of costly tariffs and new barriers to trade with its largest trading partner.

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