The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has said a deal is 80 per cent agreed, in an apparent softening of tone as Theresa May faces down Tory rebels over the direction Britain should take in talks.
Speaking on a visit to the United States Michel Barnier said he was determined to negotiate the remaining 20 per cent of the deal, with the Brussels deadline for an agreement now just around three months away.
“After 12 months of negotiations we have agreed on 80 per cent of the negotiations,” he told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
“We are not so far from the final agreement, 20 per cent. I don’t want to put myself in the situation where we fail. But to be clear, we are prepared on the European side [for] many options, including the no deal.”
The EU official added that “time is short” to close a deal and declined to comment on the resignations, saying he did not “want to make any comment on domestic and national policy in the UK”.
The approach is in contrast to Mr Barnier’s boss, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who on Monday responded sarcastically to the idea that Ms May’s Cabinet may have finally reached a position unity.
But speaking at the think-tank Mr Barnier reiterated his early warnings that Britain could not secure a better deal than EU membership, stating: “It will be clear, crystal clear at the end of this negotiation that the best situation, the best relationship with the EU, will be to remain a member.”