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Last three weeks of Brexit talks will be crucial to securing a trade deal, warns top Tory

BRUSSELS is gloomy about clinching a trade deal before Brexit — as a top Tory warns the last three weeks of talks will be critical.

EU negotiating chief Michel Barnier is braced for a major bust-up next month, vowing to be “cold blooded” with Britain.

Both sides have earmarked October for a deadline. But former Brexit Secretary David Davis has warned it is a critical endgame and the UK will soon have to be preparing for talks to collapse.

He said Brussels will try to take things to the wire, adding: “The last three weeks will matter more than the first three years.”

One Eurocrat admitted “outsiders don’t realise how pessimistic we’ve become” about getting a trade deal.

The UK is holding firm on a refusal to accept EU red tape or cave in on fishing rights. Mr Barnier fears talks are headed for a bitter breakdown.

He believes Downing Street is laying the ground for a vicious “blame game” over who is responsible for the stalemate.

In a gloomy briefing to diplomats, the grumpy Frenchman claimed that last week’s tetchy round of talks have made things worse.

The UK’s negotiator David Frost had put forward a draft text last week in the hope of speeding up the discussions. But Mr Barnier dismissed it as “unrealistic” and urged EU states to stay “cold blooded”.

He insisted that the UK’s “clear strategy” will be to “trade off” fishing access for freedom from EU rules at the last minute.

An EU source said: “We expect the mood to switch rapidly to contingency planning in expectation the UK will throw itself into the blame game rather than the endgame.”

A British official hit back, saying: “The UK has consistently pushed for detailed textual discussions on the core elements of a trade agreement.

“If the EU continues to stall progress because of its unrealistic asks on fish and subsidies, we will quickly run out of time.”

By David Davis, Ex Brexit Secretary

WELL now I’ve seen everything. The gullible British Remainer Press report breathlessly that Michel Barnier is telling us (yet again) the Brexit negotiations are “running out of time”.

Barnier is desperate to resolve his red line issues before we get to the critical endgame. I’ve always said the last three weeks will matter more than the first three years.

But there will come a time very shortly when we will have to shift the thrust of our preparations towards No Deal. The reason for this is that the European Union always runs out the clock.

When it is bullying some smaller state this works to its advantage. In the Brexit negotiation what will happen in the last few weeks is that the nation states of Europe will have to come to terms with the size of the risks that Barnier is taking.

If we end up with a no deal scenario — and it is possible — the Europeans stand to lose a large and very profitable marketplace, namely the UK.

It is clear that there are only two options now for leaving at the end of the transition period, a no deal exit or a zero-tariff deal. All sensible business owners will be preparing for both.

Deferral and delay is the only thing that affects certainty. Certainty is what business and the country as a whole require.

We already know there has been no “Great British Exodus” nor immediate recession — despite what certain pundits predicted.

As long as we leave on time, there is no reason why this should change.

Indeed, if we deliver the certainty of the end of the transition period, there is every reason business and the economy will bounce back.

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