Is last-minute ‘curveball’ from the EU about to trigger a no-deal Brexit?

UK officials claim the bloc’s negotiators are upping demands about state aid

Michel Barnier walks to a conference centre in central London
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier walks through central London during a break from negotiations

Brexit negotiators are attempting to get the talks back on track today amid a flurry of claims about last-minute demands that could scupper the negotiations.

UK officials told Politico’s London Playbook that the talks had descended into chaos yesterday as a result of “curveballs thrown in” by Brussels. The talk of new demands has triggered suggestions that France has “launched a push to drive a harder bargain with Britain on the so-called level playing field rules”, says the news site.

Turning the finger of blame in the other direction, the European negotiators say that the UK has moved “significantly” over the level playing field.

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With both sides accusing the other of potentially scuppering the bid to secure a future trade deal, Politico’s Emilio Casalicchio concludes that “the spanner is either a confected row dreamed up in Downing Street or the EU has changed tack but is keeping quiet about it”.

Emmanuel Macron is in the frame for allegedly pushing the EU to drive a harder bargain following his threat earlier this week to use his country’s veto in the European Parliament to block any deal that was not acceptable to Paris.

Bloomberg reported that the French president was “leading a group of countries” concerned that chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier may give up greater access to British fishing waters and back down over a level-playing field for business.

Despite the blip, The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth predicts that a deal is likely to struck “by Monday”. In an article for The Times, Forsyth writes that while “Brexit deadlines have come and gone with such frequency (and hype) that it is hard to take them seriously”, both sides know that “this Sunday night really is it”.

No-deal would be an acrimonious affair. The two sides would blame each other for the failure,” he adds. “A sensible deal would allow Britain and the EU to have good neighbourly relations, something which is in the interests of both sides and the wider Western alliance.”

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