The UK must “face the possibility” that it will not agree a deal on its future relationship with the EU by the end of the year.
Chief negotiator David Frost said that with less than six months to go until the end of the Brexit transition period, the UK must “continue preparing for all possible scenarios” for once that deadline passes.
His EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, said an agreement “at this point” is “unlikely”.
The assessments came after the conclusion of the latest round of talks in London.
Mr Frost said in a statement that “considerable gaps remain in the most difficult areas” – the so-called level playing field and fisheries.
“We have always been clear that our principles in these areas are not simple negotiating positions but expressions of the reality that we will be a fully independent country at the end of the transition period,” he said.
“That is why we continue to look for a deal with, at its core, a free trade agreement similar to the one the EU already has with Canada – that is, an agreement based on existing precedents.
“We remain unclear why this is so difficult for the EU, but we will continue to negotiate with this in mind.”
But he said “despite all the difficulties” he still thought a deal could be reached in September.
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