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Michel Barnier is heading for London for informal talks with officials ahead of next weeks official negotiations and there are signs that progress could be made. Sky News political editor Beth Rigby said sources had told her behind-the-scenes talks had given some cause for optimism.

EU source tells metalks have been going better than expected and there is a ‘window of opportunity’

Beth Rigby

She tweeted: “Was decided in June there would be informal talks before the ninth round next week.

“EU source tells me that talks have been going a bit better than expected and there is a ‘window of opportunity’ (subject to the full application of withdrawal agreement).”

Mr Barnier’s visit is intended to prepare for the ninth round of formal negotiating next week as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.

Talks on a trade deal are continuing but both sides have said major stumbling blocks remain and time is running out to get an agreement.

Agreement will need to be reached by the end of October in order to ratify it and have it in place when the current transition arrangements expire at the end of the year.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Barnier’s visit was part of the informal talks process which both the UK and the EU committed to.

The spokesman said: “You have seen a number of these informal discussions both in Brussels and in London in recent weeks.

“We have always stressed that we believe a deal is possible and we will continue to work hard on securing a deal.

“Time is obviously in short supply as we move towards the middle of October.”

Mr Barnier arrives in London amid growing calls from Brussels to speed up the negotiations.

European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis, who is replacing Ireland’s Phil Hogan as EU trade chief, said it was impossible to rule out insufficient progress causing a no deal outcome.

Speaking after a meeting of trade ministers in Berlin yesterday, Mr Dombrovskis said: “There are many outstanding issues.

“Progress on a number of key EU asks so far is not sufficient.

“So we would need to intensify negotiations substantially if we are to reach a successful outcome.

“The alternative of a no deal Brexit is not appealing, but we cannot exclude it.”

Germany’s Minister for Europe Michael Roth has accused Britain of playing games.

Mr Roth warned Britain it needs to take negotiations more seriously if it wants a deal on future trade ties after Brexit.

He said: “We need to work hard to reach this goal of a deal but at some point the games have to stop, we need serious discussions.”

One major sticking point, Boris Johnson’s controversial Brexit legislation enabling the UK to break international law, cleared a major Commons hurdle tonight after MPs backed a Government compromise.

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Tory backbench pressure had forced the Prime Minister to agree to amend the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill in order to give MPs a vote before the Government can use powers which would breach the Brexit divorce deal brokered with Brussels last year.

Ministers have argued such powers to override the Withdrawal Agreement are needed to protect the relationship between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Bill also sets out the way that trade within the UK will work once outside the EU’s single market and customs union, amid concerns in Westminster that Brussels could seek to disrupt food goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland as part of trade talks.

The compromise amendment was supported without the need for a formal vote.

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