And David Jones, deputy chairman of the eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) said the EU’s negotiator would do well to heed one of his favourite phrases, explaining: “The clock is ticking.” However, the MP for Clwyd West said he remains pessimistic about the prospects of an agreement, despite a recent suggestion by James Forsyth, political editor of The Spectator, that both sides were “edging towards a deal“.
Mr Johnson earlier this month set the deadline as he confirmed the publication of the Internal Market Bill, which if given Royal Assent will controversially grant the UK Government powers to override aspects of the withdrawal agreement relating to Northern Ireland.
Mr Jones said there was so little time left, especially given Mr Johnson’s deadline, which would appear to override to December 31 one which will mark the end of the transition period.
He said: “Frankly it isn’t three months any more when you think about it because Boris already gave them this deadline so effectively we are talking about two and a half weeks.”
Mr Barnier is well-known for his timepiece-related metaphor – but Mr Jones suggested it was now one Brussels needed to apply to itself.
He explained: “It’s quite a good one to use because the tables are turned now.
“The clock IS ticking – for the European Union.”
“And if they expect that then there’s not going to be a deal is there?”
Speaking today, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove insisted clauses of the Internal Market Bill which overwrite the withdrawal agreement would remain, irrespective of EU demands that they be scrapped.
Speaking after talks with European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, Mr Gove told reporters: “We want to make sure that the Withdrawal Agreement is implemented in full.
“But those clauses are there, they’re in legislation, supported by the House of Commons, as a safety net, if need be.
“And those clauses will remain in that bill.”
Mr Johnson had been very clear there needed to be progress in trade talks between chief negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost for the process to conclude in time, Mr Gove said.
With respect to his talks with Mr Sefcovic, Mr Gove said: “We had a constructive meeting.
“We both were clear with each other where we were still some distance apart but we were both also clear that we wanted to bridge that gap.”
“Maros Sefcovic and I are committed to using every moment available: every second, every minute, every hour, in order to reach agreement and I’m confident that we will.”