UK and EU vow to 'go extra mile' as Brexit talks could go on past Christmas
There was fresh hope on the prospect of a deal after Boris Johnson and Europe's top official Ursula von der Leyen agreed to "go the extra mile" and continue discussions beyond Sunday's initial deadline.
With no cut-off date given for when the talks must wrap up, it leaves the door open for the wrangling to go on until December 31 - when the transitional arrangements are due to cease.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has still not published the dates for MPs' Christmas holiday, leaving those on the green benches braced to be called in to Westminster over the festive season to vote on a possible UK-EU trade deal.
Former chief whip Mark Harper, speaking to BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour, said: "It depends on when it is concluded, but many of us are fully anticipating it's entirely possible we might be returning to Parliament between Christmas and new year to scrutinise this and vote it through if a deal is done."
Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that Labour was "minded" to vote for a deal in a sign that, should consensus be reached in Brussels, the terms of any future relationship with Britain's largest trading partner would face little opposition in Parliament.
The Prime Minister and European Commission president Ms von der Leyen - who spoke for 20 minutes on the phone in a conversation described as perfectly cordial, by sources - averted a no-deal outcome over the weekend by agreeing to continue trying to find a compromise on the outstanding blockages.
Mr Johnson, speaking after the call, said the UK would not be walking away from the negotiating table and that "where there is life, there is hope".
But the Conservative leader continued to warn that a no-deal outcome was still the most likely scenario.
He said the country should get ready for the breakdown of talks, resulting in tariffs under World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms from January 1 - a move that is predicted to cost jobs, cause food prices to rise and wipe £45 billion off the economy next year.
"The most likely thing now is, of course, that we have to get ready for WTO terms, Australia terms," the Prime Minister said.
But the agreement to continue talking beyond the Sunday deadline set by Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen does indicate that progress could be possible.
The pair agreed to "keep going for as long as they still think a deal is possible", a source said.
A joint statement issued by the two leaders said: "Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days.
"And despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile."
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