In Brief

Brexit deal could be done in fortnight after three phone calls ‘unlock’ talks

Michel Barnier says deal is ‘in reach’ following hour-long conversation with UK negotiators

A “significant” shift in the EU’s approach to Brexit trade negotiations has paved the way for a deal to be agreed in as little as a fortnight, Whitehall sources have claimed.

As the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told the European Parliament in Brussels yesterday that the new free trade agreement “was in reach”, his UK counterpart, Lord David Frost, announced that “a basis for negotiations” had been “re-established”.

According to Politico, three phone calls between Frost and Barnier led to the talks, which stalled last week, being “unlocked”. The first two conversations, on Monday and Tuesday, “raised hopes, but failed to move things forward in any substantial way”, “but a chat on Wednesday lasting almost an hour broke the deadlock”, the news site says.

As the pound made its biggest gains since March ahead of the resumption of talks in London today, Whitehall sources told The Telegraph that a deal could be agreed in “two to three weeks”.

The breakthrough comes after Boris Johnson last week declared negotiations over unless the EU fundamentally altered its position. The prime minister said there was “no point” continuing unless the bloc would discuss the legal text of a partnership.

But Barnier “offered the key” to unlock the talks with his speech to MEPs on Wednesday prior to his phone conversation with Frost, says Politico. 

“We will seek the necessary compromises on both sides in order to reach an agreement and we will do so right up until the last day until it’s possible to do so,” Barnier told the European Parliament. “Our doors will remain open until the very end.”

The Telegraph reports that Brussels has gone a step further and “caved to British conditions”, but the BBC’s Europe editor Katya Adler argues that “it hasn’t really - not in terms of substance”.

And Downing Street has warned that no-deal is still a possibility, saying that “significant gaps remain between our positions in the most difficult areas”.

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