There are only “a few hours” left to agree on a Brexit trade deal

European Commissions Task Force Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier.

Thierry Monasse | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON – Britain and the European Union have run out of time to agree on terms for a post-Brexit trade deal, warned EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Both sides have offered conflicting messages in recent days about the likelihood of a trade deal being agreed before the UK leaves the EU’s orbit in two weeks.

Addressing the European Parliament in Brussels on Friday, Barnier said the negotiations had reached “the moment of truth”.

“We have little time left, just a few hours, to move on to these negotiations in a useful way if we want the agreement to take effect on January 1,” Barner said.

“There is a chance that you will get an agreement, but the road to such an agreement is very narrow.”

An agreement would probably ensure free trade in goods between the UK and the EU after 31 December, but key disputes over issues such as fishing have continued to affect talks in recent weeks.

Both British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sounded discouraging in a phone call on Thursday night, with Johnson suggesting that a deal is unlikely to be made unless the bloc is willing to make concessions. in the field of fisheries. Meanwhile, von der Leyen acknowledged that an agreement would be “very challenging” at this stage.

It came just a day after von der Leyen announced a “narrow path” for the two sides to reach an agreement ahead of schedule.

The pound, which had risen in recent days on a growing optimism that a “no-agreement” harmful scenario could be avoided, fell 0.3% against the dollar during London’s morning trades on Friday, changing hands. at just over $ 1.3540.