A minister in Boris Johnson’s government has admitted that Brexit talks with the European Union could be extended beyond the transition period of December 31.
Appearing on Sky News with Kay Burley, the environment secretary George Eustice said it is “always possible” to extend negotiations, and that the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost has always been clear he would persevere with talks if there was a likely satisfactory outcome.
Burley asked: “How likely are we to have a deal this week and if we don’t have a deal does that mean we have run out of time?”
Eustice replied: “Well, we really are now running out of time and we have been saying that for some weeks.
“This is the crucial week we need to get a breakthrough.
“I really do think we are now in the final week or 10 days.
But he added: “Of course, if great progress was made this week and you were nearly there it is always possible to extend those negotiations.
“David Frost has made clear that we are continuing the negotiations because we still think there is a prospect that we can get an agreement and while there is, we should persevere with those.
“There does come a point for both sides where the ability to ratify an agreement and get things sorted because quite difficult if we leave things too late.
“Businesses do need to know where they stand on January 1.”
It is one of the first admissions from the government that it may not walk away without a deal at the end of the year if an agreement is not reached.