The Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney warned last night that the EU’s position in Brexit talks was “starting to shift to contingency planning for a no deal as opposed to the compromises that are necessary to get a deal done.”
The EU’s pessimism appears to be mirrored by Downing Street, with a government source saying that “things are [very] tricky and there’s every chance we’re not going to get there.”
But while key players express doubt, the prime minister Boris Johnson has affirmed his commitment to a deal. He hopes that the “power of sweet reason” will produce results.
His strong interest in a deal being done at this late juncture may confuse some, given his September ultimatum to Brussels that they agree a deal by October 15 or accept that one will not materialise and “move on.”
Nearly three months on from that statement, and nearly two months since his self-imposed deadline, talks remain ongoing.
But while issues around a future free trade agreement continue to appear intractable, agreement was found earlier today on the implementation of last year’s Withdrawal Agreement – where the thorny issue of the Northern Irish border remained an issue.
In a joint statement from Michael Gove and the European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, it was confirmed that the UK will withdraw three clauses from the controversial UK Internal Market Bill.
While the removal of clauses from the confrontational bill may appear to be a climb down for the UK, it follows the resolution of disputes on a range of outstanding issues including border control and the supply of medicines.
After more than four years of wrangling and roadblocks, the Brexit process looks as though it will be reaching a conclusion in the coming days, ahead of the conclusion of the transition period at midnight on December 31.
Whether Boris Johnson and his chief negotiator Lord David Frost continue to hold firm is yet to be seen.