European sources insist they believe the Prime Minister wants to secure a free-trade agreement with the bloc. They believe he will eventually overrule top aide Dominic Cummings and other influential Tory Brexiteers who want to quit the transition period without a future relationship pact. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is said to be quietly confident Mr Johnson will push through a deal because of promises the Prime Minister made in June to Ursula von der Leyen.
The European Commission president was buoyed to hear Mr Johnson express his commitment to finding a deal during their high-level meeting.
Brussels diplomats believe the Prime Minister’s reluctance to stress his negotiating demands is because he’s bluffing with his threat to walk out of talks in October.
An EU source told Express.co.uk: “He complicates issues because he’s manoeuvring in a tight spot but nowhere has he underlined his red lines.
“There is an absence of red lines, nowhere does he say this or that is unacceptable.
“But as it stands it would be hard for him to sell something domestically.”
Negotiations are currently deadlocked over EU demands to keep access to Britain’s fishing grounds and the so-called regulatory level playing field.
Mr Johnson has said Britain would walk away from the negotiating table on October 15 unless Brussels backs down over its “unreasonable” demands.
Talks on the future relationship hang in the balance after a series of bitter exchanges between the UK and EU.
Tensions worsened ahead of the resumption of key discussions in London today after Mr Barnier blasted proposals to change customs rules.
He claimed to be on the brink of walking out of the negotiations in protest and accused the Prime Minister of trying to rip up his pledge not to allow a hard border in Northern Ireland.
The angry row erupted after details of the Government’s Internal Markets Bill emerged.
It is being drafted to set out clear customs arrangements if the UK’s transition out of the EU single market at the end of the year takes place without a trade deal agreed with Brussels.
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One official said: “The Government is completely committed, as it always has been, to implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol in good faith. If we don’t take these steps we face legal confusion at the end of the year.”
A No10 spokesman said the Prime Minister would press ahead with the legislation.
He added: “We will continue to work with the EU in the Joint Committee to resolve outstanding issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol. “However, as a responsible government, we cannot allow the peace process or the UK’s internal market to inadvertently be compromised.
“So we are taking limited and reasonable steps to clarify specific elements of the protocol in domestic law to remove any ambiguity and to ensure the Government is able to deliver on its commitments to the people of Northern Ireland.”