Minister tells LBC Brexit negotiations 'could be extended beyond Wednesday cutoff'

6 December 2020, 11:13 | Updated: 7 December 2020, 07:44

By Maddie Goodfellow

Environment Secretary George Eustice has told LBC that Brexit negotiations "could be extended beyond the Wednesday cutoff" if progress is being made.

Tom Swarbrick questioned Mr Eustice over the possibility of a no deal, and whether an extension to the transition period is possible.

"No, the transition period will not be extended. The point that I made is that the next 72 hours are pretty critical," Mr Eustice explained.

"However, if there's good will during those 72 hours and progress is being made then it might be that there is no cut off point on Wednesday.

"It may be that both sides agree that they're nearly there and so they decide to persevere for a few more days."

His comments come as the UK and EU will return to the negotiating table today in a "final throw of the dice" as they try to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.

Boris Johnson and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen during a meeting in Downing Street
Boris Johnson and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen during a meeting in Downing Street. Picture: PA

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed that a "further effort" should be made to come to an agreement the level playing field, governance and fisheries.

Ahead of the meeting however, British sources warned there was no guarantee they would succeed.

"This is the final throw of the dice," said one UK source close to the negotiations.

"There is a fair deal to be done that works for both sides, but this will only happen if the EU is willing to respect the fundamental principles of sovereignty and control."

However, former Tory party Leader Lord Michael Howard told LBC that Boris Johnson should "walk away" from negotiations if EU negotiators are making a "series of quite unreasonable demands."

Speaking on Swarbrick on Sunday, Lord Howard said: "We can't sign up to everything that President Macron thinks we should sign up to and brings to the table at the last minute.

"Even the things that were not introduced at the last minute are completely unreasonable. We must have control of our fisheries when we leave, we can have a transitional arrangement but things will have to change."

Asked if there could be a short extension to the transition period, Lord Howard said: "I think if the deal is agreed in the next couple of days, it can all be done and dusted by the need of the year.

"If a sensible agreement is reached, there should be no problem."

In a statement on Saturday evening, the EU boss said: "Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved.

"We are therefore instructing our chief negotiators to reconvene tomorrow in Brussels."We will speak again on Monday evening."

Shortly after the statement, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted to confirm the teams will "see if there is a way forward" - which will require compromise on one or both sides.

It comes after talks between the UK and the European Union were paused on Friday after the two teams failed to compromise on the three contentious issues.

Yesterday Downing Street warned that trade talks are at a "very difficult point".