Boris Johnson is preparing to make a significant intervention in the Brexit trade talks this week as negotiators begin the “final push” before a deadline in eight days’ time.
The Prime Minister is expected to speak to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in an attempt to clear away the final barriers to a deal which both sides now believe is well within reach.
Ministers had hoped an agreement in principle would already be in place by now, but the timetable was set back after Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier was forced into Covid self-isolation, meaning face-to-face talks had to be paused.
One source close to the negotiations suggested the enforced break had been a blessing in disguise, as it gave the exhausted teams time to “pause and reflect” on how they could overcome the knotty problems standing in their path.
Face-to-face talks are expected to restart on Thursday, giving the teams a maximum of six days to thrash out a deal before the deadline expires.
A source on the UK side of the talks said: “Both sides seem to think we will get there, but nothing is certain and Boris Johnson will not water down his demands in order to get a deal.
“The negotiators are nearly there on an awful lot of things, but the areas of disagreement – state aid in particular – cuts across a lot of other areas.
“We are not in the final moments yet but this week will see the start of the final push.
“I would expect that at some point this week the Prime Minister or Ursula von der Leyen will have to make an intervention.”