Brussels sources said a number of influential EU states have called on the European Commission to significantly ramp up the preparations for a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year. But in a private meeting after the latest round of talks, senior diplomats insisted any measures must be unilateral and not help Britain avert potential disruptions in the New Year. A source said: “We need to revive our contingency planning from last year. This needs to go through the European Parliament and Council – time is getting tight.
“It is not time for side negotiations on mini deals.”
A second source added: “A large number of member states called on the Commission to publish the contingency proposals as soon as possible.
“We are now in the late stage of the negotiations and there is possibility of accidents in the last six weeks.”
The bloc last year prepared for the divorce talks to break down without an agreement because of disagreements over the controversial Northern Ireland backstop.
Senior eurocrats produced a series of new regulations to ensure disruption to air and road travel, vital food and medicine supplies, and fisheries was limited.
They now plan to bring many of these back with the threat of an “accidental” no deal still on the cards, according to an EU source.
Brexit talks are set to be extended into December after another round of wrangling ended without a breakthrough.
On Thursday chief negotiators Michel Barnier and Lord Frost had to call a halt on face-to-face discussions after a member of the EU team contracted coronavirus.
Britain’s refusal to cave in to EU demands on fishing rights and state aid rules had blocked any hope of progress being made.
EU sources said both sides were closing in on an agreement on most issues despite the deadlock.
In a private meeting, the bloc’s 27 ambassadors were told progress was now “too slow” and the UK and EU teams now risk running out of time to conclude a deal.
The blockages on the main sticking points were described as “philosophical”, according to one insider.
Future trade negotiations will be carried out via video conference until it is deemed safe to resume them in person.
The pandemic had already disrupted the talks in March when Mr Barnier contracted coronavirus.
Lord Frost also self-isolated after developing symptoms.
Brexit transition arrangements end in six weeks.
Any deal needs to be approved by the UK and European parliaments as well as member states before it can be introduced.