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Brussels sources said Michel Barnier believes Boris Johnson’s threat to rip up the Withdrawal Agreement had created a “more open atmosphere” in talks with UK negotiator Lord Frost And senior diplomatic sources told Express.co.uk the EU’s chief negotiator had identified several “landing zones” for compromises to break the deadlock over a post-Brexit trade deal. It was said Mr Barnier was undeterred by the recent spat over Downing Street’s willingness to overrule parts of the divorce deal relating to Northern Ireland.
He vowed to “stay calm” and remain at the negotiation table despite what was seen as a deliberate provocation by No10 to force him to quit the talks.
The Frenchman told a recent gathering of EU27 ministers the Internal Market Bill was “not helpful” but insisted he is “focused on the endgame of the negotiations”, according to a source familiar with the talks.
Another source said legislation had created an “opening” in the talks as they reached their end point.
Mr Barnier today met with Lord Frost, the Prime Minister’s Brexit envoy, to prepare for the ninth formal negotiating round in Brussels.
Next week’s session is seen as vital in reaching an agreement by the October deadline set by both sides.
British officials have complained the wrangling over a post-Brexit trade deal has brought to a standstill because of the EU’s refusal to budge from its demands for continued access to Britain’s fishing grounds and a regulatory level-playing field.
But a diplomatic source said Mr Barnier is “realistic” a deal can be reached before the end of the year.
“An agreement remains possible in line with the EU’s interests and the three UK red lines,” they told Express.co.uk.
Another source involved in the discussions said a fisheries agreement “in theory should not be difficult”, but it is expected to be held back until the very end of the talks.
“Having talked for such a long time, the negotiators know where the landing zones are,” they added.
Negotiations are now expected to run into November with just a “deal in principle” agreed between the UK and EU in time for a key leaders’ summit in Brussels.
In the absence of a completed legal text, both sides will seek to finalise the terms of the deal after a political intervention from Mr Johnson and EU chiefs to seal the agreement.
Eurocrats have also shelved plans to trigger legal proceedings against the Prime Minister until the end of the trade talks.
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They believe any future relationship pact will alleviate Downing Street’s concerns over Northern Ireland being cut off from the mainland.
And reports Mr Johnson is willing to delay his Brexit Bill’s route through Parliament were well received in Brussels.
Sources said the bloc is now confident the Prime Minister will be able to remove sections of the legislation that allow ministers to rip up parts of the divorce deal.
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News – Brexit breakthrough: Barnier says Boris’ hardline tactics created ‘opening’ for trade deal