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No deal Brexit will hurt ‘very weak’ EU more than UK – 'Brussels can't afford to lose us!'

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And Robert Oulds, director of the Bruges Group, has said the bloc simply cannot afford to lose access to Brexit Britain. Mr Oulds was speaking as both sides geared up for a crucial phase in the negotiations, with a fresh round of talks due to get underway on Monday.

And with the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost insisting earlier this week there was no prospect of an extension to the December 31 deadline, which will mark the end of the transition period, the pressure is on to strike a deal.

However, with barely seven months left and no sign of a breakthrough, the prospects of a no deal outcome are looking distinctly possible.

Mr Oulds, who is vehemently opposed to any idea of further delay, told Express.co.uk: “It’s absolutely reasonable to suggest no agreement would be worse for the EU than it would for the UK.

“The German economy has had a lot of separate issues, as do a lot of other EU nations.”

The problems predated the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Oulds said – but were now being exacerbated by the pandemic.

He added: “They can’t afford to be losing market access to Brexit Britain.

READ MORE: EU on the brink: Brexit clears way for ‘United States of Europe’

He predicted: “It will be another victory for Brexit Britain.

“We will say to them this is what your leaders want – and we are certain what most people in the UK want.”

Earlier this month Mr Barnier described progress on an FTA as “disappointing”.

He and Mr Frost later exchanged terse letters in a clear indication of the gulf which the two sides are struggling to bridge.

Mr Frost said the EU’s plan “contains novel and unbalanced proposals which would bind this country to EU law or standards”.

He added: “What is on offer is not a fair free trade relationship between close economic partners, but a relatively low-quality trade agreement coming with unprecedented EU oversight of our laws and institutions.”

Mr Barnier replied by suggesting “an exchange of letters regarding the substance of the negotiations is necessarily the best way to discuss on substantial points”.

He added: “It cannot be a substitute for serious engagement and detailed negotiations and, in particular, I would not like the tone that you have taken to impact the mutual trust and constructive attitude that is essential between us.”

Despite the apparent mood of pessimism, bookmakers Coral are offering odds of 1/3 on the UK and the EU agree a free trade agreement by the end of the year, and 2/1 that they do not.

Spokesman Harry Aitkenhead said: “There’s a long way to go but our odds very much suggest that the UK and the EU will agree a Free Trade Agreement by the end of the year and that the UK continues on its way to leaving on time.”

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