Brexit deal stays elusive, EU’s Barnier tells Brussels envoys

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier walks at Westminster in London

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Intensified Brexit negotiations with Britain in recent days have yielded only moderate progress towards a trade deal and differences remain on key issues, the European Union’s negotiator told EU envoys on Wednesday, senior diplomats said.

One senior diplomat said the negotiator, Michel Barnier, gave no timeline for an agreement or even any certainty that a trade deal between the 27-nation EU and Britain would be clinched by a mid-November deadline.

“He gave no timeline and he was rather uncertain about a deal,” the diplomat said.

Britain left the EU in January and the estranged allies have since been locked in complex negotiations on a free trade deal for when a status-quo transition period ends on Dec. 31.

Barnier told the ambassadors that there was still no agreement on so-called “level playing field” guarantees to avoid unfair competition, the question of fishing rights and how to settle potential future disputes, two diplomats said.

He said that vigorous talks would continue next week, a second senior diplomat said.

A senior official said the envoys were told there had been “mild progress” in the negotiations.

“There is no discussion of mood and predictions on Barnier’s side, just a clear drive to get a deal,” the official said. “It is pure pragmatism.”

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