There is a 50 percent chance of the UK leaving the EU without a trade deal, Denmark’s finance minister has warned.
Kristian Jensen told the BBC “time is running out” for the two sides to reach an agreement before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 as urged for talks to be stepped up a gear.
His comments came a day after Latvia’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvič also claimed there was 50/50 possibility of a no-deal Brexit outcome.
Theresa May aims to have the outline of a trade deal with Brussels agreed by the October summit of EU leaders, but the two sides are yet to reach an accord in a number of areas, including how the UK’s border with Ireland will operate after Brexit.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Friday afternoon, Jensen agreed with Rinkēvič’s that is a “very considerable risk” of no deal.
He said: “I also believe that 50/50 is a very good assessment because time is running out and we need to move really fast if we’ve got to strike a deal that is positive both for the UK and EU.”
The Dane called on both sides to ensure “some effort in the months to come, otherwise I’m afraid that time will run out”.
The UK attempted to jump-start the talks by publishing a detailed policy for a future trading relationship – dubbed the Chequers Agreement.
The plan would see the UK follow a common rulebook with the EU on goods and agri-foods in a bid to create near frictionless trade at the country’s borders.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been visiting European cities this week in a bid to drum up enthusiasm for the plan. During a visit to the Netherlands on Thursday he suggested the government’s negotiating position could be watered down as he refused to describe the policy as a “take it or leave it” offer to Brussels.
Hunt said: “It is a framework on which I believe the ultimate deal will be based and I’ve been to several countries and met seven foreign ministers and am meeting more in the weeks ahead, and I’m getting a strong sense that not just in Holland, but in many of the places I’ve visited, that they do want to engage seriously to try and find a way through to try and get a pragmatic outcome.”
He was forced to row back from claims that leaving the EU without a deal would be a “mistake we would regret for generations” – later tweeting that Britain would “survive and prosper” without an agreement.
Negotiations between the UK and EU restarted this week as officials got together in Brussels to discuss the Irish border and future trading relationship between the two sides.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier are due to meet in Brussels on Tuesday.
A DExEU spokesperson said: “We firmly believe it is in the interests of both the EU and the UK to strike a deal. That remains the goal on both sides and we are confident that this will be achieved.”