The European Union's Brexit negotiator has told the bloc's 27-member envoys to Brussels that he still thinks a trade deal with Britain is possible despite a new crisis in the tortuous four-year saga, diplomatic sources say.
Britain left the EU last January and is in a standstill transition until the end of the year.
Talks on a new trade deal from 2021 have made little progress ahead of an EU deadline of end of October while London's moves to undermine its earlier divorce deal have further clouded the picture.
But the assessment from Michel Barnier, who addressed the ambassadorial gathering on Wednesday, was not all bleak, according to EU sources who either participated or were briefed.
"Barnier still believes a deal is possible though the next days are key," said one of the EU sources.
"The hope is still there," added another.
Barnier's boss, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, echoed his view in an interview with the FT.
The first source said tentative concessions offered by the United Kingdom on fisheries - a major point of discord so far - were "a glimmer of hope".
Reuters reported exclusively on Tuesday that Britain has moved to break the deadlock despite publicly threatening to walk away from the Withdrawal Agreement.
Talks on new trade arrangements descended into fresh turmoil this month over Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plans to pass new domestic laws that would undercut the withdrawal accord.
EU diplomats said they would assess the domestic political situation in Britain at the end of the month before the bloc's 27 leaders decide next steps at an October 15-16 summit.
Australian Associated Press