The German Chancellor wants to play a leading role in bringing the European Union and Government back to the negotiating table when she takes over the bloc’s rotating presidency in July. EU sources claim the bloc is planning for a huge trade row to explode in June and would use the moment to help focus both sides’ minds. An EU ambassador said both Berlin and Paris expect trade talks to miss the summer deadline set out in Boris Johnson’s lead negotiator David Frost’s mandate.
The influential capitals believe initial progress will be extremely slow, prompting “a lot of drama” later in the year.
“We will be lucky to get a bare-bones free-trade agreement by the end of the year. It will be extremely difficult,” they added.
Ms Merkel would use Germany’s presidency of the EU to get negotiations back on track at a potential emergency summit.
A second diplomat predicted an “October reckoning” where London and Brussels would decide to prioritise areas that could be fast-tracked by the end of the year.
Even before formal negotiations have gotten underway, tensions between the UK and EU are at boiling point.
Michel Barnier hit out at Boris Johnson by insisting the EU would “stick to all our prior commitments” in the Political Declaration.
Writing on Twitter, he said: “We take note of the UK’s mandate published today and will discuss our respective positions on Monday.
“We will stick to all our prior commitments in the Political Declaration.
“We want an ambitious and fair partnership with the UK in the future.”
It is understood the EU negotiator wanted to target claims from Downing Street that the bloc would renege on its pledge to make early decisions on financial services and data.
EU sources have said the Frenchman has been infuriated by a recent Twitter spat in which No.10’s official account used him of rowing back on promises.
The European Commission vowed to “keep our eye on the ball” while preparing the bloc for the possibility of a no-deal scenario at the end of the year.
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