BORIS Johnson will send MPs home for Christmas tonight, scotching hopes a Brexit deal is close.
It is also a warning shot to Brussels that he will not be bounced into a talks climbdown.
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MPs had seen an announcement that they would sit next week as a sign trade discussions were reaching an end game.
Hopes had risen further that a breakthrough was imminent when the PM cancelled a foreign visit pencilled in for tomorrow. But tonight, Downing Street insisted the two sides were still far apart on fishing and a row over Brexit Britain undercutting the EU.
However, No 10 said MPs could still be recalled on Monday and Tuesday if decisive progress was made.
But any emergency sitting is now more likely to be needed between Christmas and the new year to hit the December 31 deadline.
Downing Street said: “Time is now in short supply to reach an agreement with the EU and we expect discussions will continue over the coming days.
“In the absence of further substantive business, we will, subject to approval by the House, go into recess.
“But it is with the knowledge we will recall MPs and peers to legislate for a deal if one is secured.
“That recall could be as early as next week.” But Mr Johnson insisted positive developments were “very much a matter for our friends”.
He explained that if an arrangement was at last to be reached “they know what the parameters are”.
And he added: “We have just got to make sure we control our own laws and waters. There is a good deal to be done.”
But Brussels struck a notably optimistic tone yesterday with European Commission boss Ursula von der Leyen telling MEPS there was now a path to agreement.
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And she stressed that the next few days would be decisive as negotiators continued to work.
Yet Ms von der Leyen admitted: “The clock puts us all in a difficult situation, not least this parliament.”
And she went on to warn that the potential way forward was very narrow.