George Eustice has claimed that the Brexit trade talks could be extended if progress is made over the next few days.
The Environment Secretary suggested that the talks could be extended if a deal was within touching distance.
This is contrary to Lord Frost and the Government’s own position on the current negotiations, which is that a deal is no more than a 50:50 possibility.
Mr Johnson could remove Lord Frost from talks if he or both sides feel little or no progress has been made. This would depend on the outcome of a phone call with President Von der Leyen, due to be made this evening.
Such a result would mean the UK and EU would trade on World Trade Organisation rules from January 1st.
In an interview with Andrew Marr, Mr Eustice said negotiations were “in the final few days” and that an extension was possible if broad agreement is reached, with only details to be deliberated upon.
He added: “I think we probably are now in the final few days in terms of deciding whether there can be an agreement.
“Of course, if the ambience warms up again and actually great progress is made and it is just about sorting out the detail, then you can always find more time, you can always extend.”
The former Brexit negotiator, David Davis, has said talks could last up till the day of the deadline. That could necessitate an extension so as to allow both sides to ratify the deal.
This could jeopardise the UK negotiating schedule, as Downing Street have made it clear they want to be done by Monday so as to allow the deal to go though the necessary channels, before the EU Council meeting on Thursday.
The final step would then be for all state parliaments (including the UK’s) to vote to approve the deal.
Hopes of such actions were dashed, however, after the EU made a number of lavish demands, including unrestricted access to UK fishing waters for 10 years (which they later rescinded).
The bloc also wanted the right to impose “lightning” tariffs on UK goods if it is seen to be breaking any agreement on state subsidies without going though an arbitration panel.