Hopes of agreeing a Brexit deal have increased among ministers in recent weeks, but today the UK's chief negotiator Sir David Frost offered a reality check. In a statement following the latest round of talks, Frost said that while 'progress has been possible' there remained 'familiar differences' on level playing field clauses, state aid and – notably – fishing. On the EU side, Michel Barnier said that to reach an agreement 'these divergences must necessarily be overcome over the next weeks'.
The comments come as Boris Johnson attempted to dial up the pressure on the EU in a regional media round. He said it's 'up to our friends and partners' in the EU to avoid a no-deal scenario at the end of the Brexit transition period:
'I hope that we get a deal, it’s up to our friends… They’ve done a deal with Canada of a kind that we want, why shouldn’t they do it with us? We’re so near, we’ve been members for 45 years. It’s all there, it’s just up to them.'
The UK side's aim of moving to the 'tunnel stage' of the negotiations – of technical final talks before a deal – is yet to come to fruition despite earlier optimism. However, the hope in government is that Johnson's meeting this weekend with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will focus minds and help move things along. However, realistically there's a sense among some officials involved in the process that a deal before November is unlikely.