This morning MEPs voted to set a deadline of Sunday for a deal to be agreed, warning any later and they would be unable to scrutinise a deal properly before a vote ahead of the end of the EU transition period on December 31. This afternoon, the Prime Minister’s spokesman refused to be drawn on the deadline set out by the European Parliament and said the UK was focused on agreeing a new relationship “by the end of the month”.
He said: “We want to get our relationship agreed by the end of the month whether that’s an FTA or we leave on an Australia style, WTO terms.
“We’ve ruled out previously extending negotiations into the new year.”
MEPs said earlier today they would be willing to reconvene for an extraordinary sitting of the European Parliament on December 28 if a deal was agreed by the end of this week but any later and they would not be able to vote on it until the new year.
They said this would mean a brief period of a no deal scenario before a trade agreement could come into force.
The move has been seen as an attempt by Brussels to force the UK to make last-minute concessions to get a pact over the line by Sunday.
But No10 has continued to stand firm in negotiations and has warned that despite some progress, a no deal Brexit remained the most likely outcome.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said: “Our negotiating team remains there to work to bridge the gaps that remain.
“An Australia, World Trade Organization exit remains the most likely outcome which is why we are planning for that eventuality but we remain committed to trying to reach a free trade agreement if possible.”
As well as the European Parliament making preparations to sit on December 28 to vote on any potential trade deal, MPs have also been put on notice they could be recalled to Westminster to give their approval to an agreement over the Christmas.
The House of Commons will rise at the end of the day today and is not scheduled to sit again until January 4.
Telling MPs to be prepared to an emergency sitting of Parliament between not and the end of the year, Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg said this morning: “We will rise for the Christmas recess at the close of business today but MPs will recognise that talks with the European Union continue.
“Should a deal be secured, it is the Government’s intention to request a recall in order that Parliament may pass the necessary legislation.
“Parliament has and continues to do its duty, and has long shown it can act quickly and decisively when needed.
“I’m sure the whole House will agree the country would expect nothing less.”
However, The Prime Minister’s spokesman said this afternoon he did not believe it would be necessary to ask MPs to sit on Christmas Day to vote on a deal.
He said: “Obviously we wouldn’t be looking for the House to sit on Christmas Day and the bank holidays around it.
“We would obviously try to avoid those days.”
More to follow…