No-deal Brexit fears rise as Johnson heads for last supper in Brussels

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks near Downing Street, in London, Britain, December 8, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

(Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson heads to Brussels on Wednesday for dinner with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a last ditch attempt to avoid a tumultuous no-trade deal Brexit in three weeks’ time.

With growing fears of chaotic no-deal finale to the five-year Brexit crisis when the United Kingdom finally leaves the EU’s orbit on Dec. 31, the dinner is being cast as a last chance to unlock the stalled trade talks.

“We must be realistic that an agreement may not be possible as we will not compromise on reclaiming UK sovereignty,” a British government source said.

“It’s clear that some political impetus will be required for the talks to make any more progress,” the source said, adding that if progress was made then negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost could resume talks.

Failure to secure a deal would snarl borders, shock financial markets and disrupt delicate supply chains across Europe and beyond as the world tries to cope with the vast economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Barnier said on Tuesday he believed a ‘no-deal’ split in ties with Britain at the end of the year was now more likely than agreement on a trade pact, sources in the bloc said.

A diplomat and an official in Brussels, speaking under condition of anonymity, said Barnier made the remark at a meeting with the 27 national European affairs ministers and added that it was time for the bloc to update its no-deal contingency plans.