The heat in negotiations is up and the final race against time is on.
Today The Telegraph writes that Prime Minister Boris Johnson today will say to the EU that the Withdrawal Agreement is ‘contradictory’ on Northern Ireland.
The Telegraph writes that nO deal may rapidly be emerging as the most likely outcome – but Government insiders remain bullish.
The Prime Minister believes the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement is legally ambiguous and would leave Northern Ireland isolated from the rest of the UK, something that was “unforeseen” when he agreed to it last year.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, arrives in London on Tuesday morning for the latest round of formal trade talks after Mr Johnson said he “will not back down” over his plan to change the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement through legislation being tabled on Wednesday.
The move has triggered a major row between London and Brussels, with the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, saying the issue was a matter of “trust”.
She threatened not to do business with Britain in future if the Government refused to abide by the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, which Brussels insists is legally binding.
Mr Barnier said honouring the existing agreement was a “precondition” for progress to be made in trade deal negotiations this week, while critics of Mr Johnson accused him of wanting to force a “no trade deal” exit at the end of the year.
The former Brexit Secretary David Davis, “the EU have persuaded themselves they won’t be hurt by no deal. It’s not true, but what’s important is that they believe it”.
Meanwhile, the Government appears more relaxed about the prospect, mindful that the coronavirus crisis will blur any possible economic fallout.
Not that Mr Davis is without hope. “People forget that the withdrawal agreement was signed on the presumption that there would be a trade agreement,” he said. “We’re not even in the last month yet. I always said this would be settled in the last three weeks, not the first three years.
“This will get tenser and tenser, and suddenly there will be a last-minute breakthrough in the middle of the night.”