EU chiefs will switch focus to No Deal planning if there is no breakthrough in next week’s last-ditch talks.
Brussels sources said the upcoming negotiations are make or break amid a renewed sense of optimism a last-minute trade pact can be clinched.
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And PM Boris Johnson secured another major boost as No 10 confirmed Eurocrats have backed down from threats of a food blockade on Northern Ireland.
Diplomats said there is a “rather positive spirit” in the talks despite the row over the PM’s plan to rip up parts of last year’s Brexit deal.
But they now want to hear “more sophisticated messages” from him on how that can be translated into a compromise deal before a crunch October 15 summit.
A senior diplomatic source told The Sun: “Next week has to be more productive, otherwise we’re really in trouble.
“It’s a signal we should start opening work on the contingency package if nothing fruitful happens in the first half of October.”
Another EU diplomat said: “We really need to get an indication progress is being made. If not, we’ll carefully consider our options.”
The PM is expected to speak to French and German leaders Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel on the phone ahead of the summit. He could also rush to Brussels for talks with European Commission boss Ursula von der Leyen if a deal is on the cards.
And European Council chief Charles Michel threw down the gauntlet to No 10 over respecting EU standards saying he won’t “sell off” market access to the UK.
Michel Barnier has put aside the row over No 10’s move to rewrite parts of the Irish border fix to focus on getting a trade deal.
Brussels will press on with legal action at the same time, and demand the PM drops the measures in return for any agreement coming into force.
In private the EU’s chief negotiator has given No 10 assurances the UK is on course to be approved for food exports after Brexit.
And there is optimism “the tide is turning” with both sides saying some progress has been made in technical talks.
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