British officials expect a lot of “noise” between the two sides before Brussels eventually drops its hardline negotiating position. Talks between the UK and European Commission continued last week but ended with the bloc accusing Britain of refusing to engage on its plans for a regulatory level playing field and upholding existing fisheries access. But sources close to the UK negotiating team said a deal can be completed before the post-Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.
Officials have suggested the row over the two sides’ redlines must first escalate before they can reach a compromise.
A source said: “I’m quite positive. I do believe in the core areas of this there’s a good understanding between negotiators.
“I’m confident we will get over the disagreements. Probably a bit more noise has to happen before we get to that point.”
Another round of online trade negotiations is scheduled for May 11.
Downing Street is expected to push for more one to one talks between Michel Barnier and David Frost, the EU and UK’s chief negotiators, in an attempt to break the deadlock.
No10 wants senior Government officials to be able to open new channels of communications alongside the formal negotiations.
But the source said the UK would not budge on its approach to the talks and would reject the EU’s continued access to Britain’s waters and attempts to lock the country into the bloc’s rulebook.
The source said: “What is slowing us up is the EU’s insistence on extra provision, notably the level playing field area, aspects of governance, and of course there is no meeting of minds on fisheries.
“If they continue to insist on their position on a so-called level playing field and on continuing the Common Fisheries Policy, for example, we are never going to accept that. Draw your own conclusion from that, but I hope they will move on.”
“There are some fundamentals that we are not going to move on because, not so much that they are negotiation positions, as they are what an independent state does,” they added.
It is understood that British and EU negotiators hope virtual bonding sessions could help build the camaraderie needed to strike a deal.
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British officials remain confident that a deal can be struck despite the COVID-19 outbreak hindering the process.
“I don’t think the crisis makes any difference,” the source said.
“It is a big and horrible thing to affect us but I sense that European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier himself would like to get a deal and I sensed that before the crisis started.”