The UK’s cabinet office minister Michael Gove has said there will be no negotiations with the EU on a trade deal in 2021 if one is not agreed by the end of this year.
Taking questions from MPs, he confirmed "the most likely outcome is we will leave on WTO terms" - meaning no deal - as he was quizzed on the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Negotiations between the UK and the EU are coming to a head, with the transition period set to end on December 31 - less than two weeks' time.
At this point, if no deal has been agreed and approved by the two sides' respective parliaments, the UK will crash out of the trading bloc in a no-deal Brexit.
Asked by MP Nigel Mills to confirm if there would be no more negotiations next year on a deal with the EU if no deal is reached by the end of this year, Gove said “yes”.
“We would not be attempting to negotiate a new deal, no,” he said.
“The view has been expressed by some that if there is no agreement by December 31, we would go back to the negotiating table a month, two months or in three months' time. That would be it, we would have left on WTO terms.”
He did say there would be “contact” between the UK and EU member states “as one would expect”.
With the two sides deadlocked for months over a number of issues, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave some cautious optimism that a last-minute deal could be on the way when she told MEPs on Wednesday progress had been made on the so-called "level playing field".
Failure to agree a deal will leave the UK trading with the EU on World Trade Organization rules, increasing costs and disruption, and leaving many other matters unresolved.
Meanwhile, the co-chair of the EU-UK Joint Committee from the EU side, Maroš Šefčovič, said on Thursday an "important milestone" had been reached, with the two sides endorsing practical solutions to ensure the Withdrawal Agreement will be operational in time for the end of the year.
"This means that we have delivered on our overarching objective to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement," he wrote on Twitter.
The Withdrawal Agreement is a treaty between the two sides, setting out the terms of the UK's exit from the EU, and is not the same as the trade deal the sides are negotiating currently.