A “narrow path” has opened up for the UK and European Union(EU) to strike a post-Brexit trade deal, the president of the European Commission has said.
Ursula von der Leyen said the “next few days are going to be decisive,” with just two weeks left before the UK quits EU trading rules.
She said differences over enforcing a deal are “largely being resolved,” but talks over fishing remain “difficult”.
Prime Minister (PM) Boris Johnson told Members of Parliament (MPs) there was “every opportunity” to reach a deal.
Officials from both sides are continuing talks in Brussels, as they race to strike a deal before the UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends on December31.
Despite weeks of intensive talks, they have remained stuck over fishing rights and how far the UK should be able to depart from EU rules.
Updating the European Parliament on an EU leaders’ summit last week, Mrs von der Leyen said: “As things stand, I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not.
“But there is a path to an agreement now – the path may be very narrow, but it is there.”
She said that negotiators had agreed a “strong mechanism” to ensure neither side lowers their environmental or social standards, which was a “big step forwards”.
But she added differences remained over how to “future proof” rules in this area, although disagreements over how to enforce a deal “by now are largely being resolved”.
A UK official said on Wednesday: “We’ve made some progress, but we are still very far apart in key areas.”
Speaking after Mrs von der Leyen, Mr Johnson said: “There’s every opportunity, every hope I have, that our friends and partners across the Channel will see sense and do a deal.
“All that it takes is for them to understand that the UK has a natural right, like every other country, to be able to want to control its own laws and its own fishing grounds.”
He told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions that “whatever happens in the next few days,” the UK will “prosper mightily” whether a deal is found or not.
Mrs von der Leyen also reported progress in another area which has proved contentious – agreed rules on how and when each side can give government subsidies to private firms. -BBC