EU and UK negotiators are set showdown Brexit talks this week as they seek to build on tentative signs of progress which have raised hopes that a trade deal may be possible.
Teams will meet on Tuesday for three days of talks at the European Commission’s headquarters in Brussels, with a month remaining until what EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said is the “realistic deadline” for a deal, if it is to be ratified in time for the end of Britain’s transition period on January 1.
EU diplomats told the Financial Times that what was at stake this week was whether enough headway could be made to justify both sides then entering into intensive “tunnel” talks of senior advisers, who would have the task of resolving the most difficult issues left on the table.
The tunnel, also described by Mr Barnier as “submarine” talks, could run from the week of October 4 until an EU summit on October 15-16, a date seen as the moment when leaders such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel will assess the state of the negotiations.
David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, said a deal was “very much possible, but equally very far from certain”, adding that the past fortnight of informal discussions had been “relatively positive”.
“The EU still needs to…