A senior UK government source told the PA news agency on Thursday evening: “The EU is bringing new elements into the negotiation. A breakthrough is still possible in the next few days but that prospect is receding.”
It came just hours after discussions were said to be “at the very end” by Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister. He told RTE that if a deal cannot be done then the focus will shift very soon to a no deal scenario.
Earlier on Thursday it was confirmed that trade talks, described as “make or break”, had stretched late into the night in London on Wednesday as negotiators sought to bridge considerable gaps over fishing rights, state aid and governance – the same issues over which talks have stalled since February.
And with Downing Street pledging to push ahead with plans to breach international law amid reports it intended to do so again in a Finance Bill due next week, Mr Coveney warned this would be a “a really big mistake” and would be taken by the EU as a “clear signal” the UK does not want a deal.
Michel Barnier reportedly told the EU27 that such a move would trigger a “crisis”.