Brexit negotiators must bridge ‘significant gaps’ within days, Boris Johnson warns

In an attempt to break the deadlock, the UK has proposed a three-year transition period for fisheries, during which the catches of EU fishermen would be gradually reduced before the implementation of new quotas.

But, in a summary of the call with Mr Macron, a Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister emphasised that progress must be made in the coming days to bridge the significant gaps, notably in the areas of fisheries and the ‘level playing field’.”

Separately, Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, is writing to more than 600,000 firms, urging them to prepare themselves for the end of the transition period. 

Mr Sharma said: “When the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, there will be a guaranteed set of changes and opportunities for which businesses need to prepare as the UK leaves the customs union and single market, including changes to the way businesses import and export goods, the process for hiring people from the EU, and the way businesses provide services in EU markets.”

Mr Sharma’s letter comes after Alex Chisholm, the Cabinet Office permanent secretary, warned that many businesses still believed the transition period would be extended.

A Whitehall source said the EU was now “negotiating on a more realistic basis” with “the exception of fisheries”. 

The source added: “We now need the EU to urgently up the pace, and we need to make progress in these coming days if the process is to stay a meaningful one.”