French President Emmanuel Macron has said he is “not certain” that a deal can be secured between the UK and EU by the end of the Brexit transition period.
Mr Macron said that negotiations would be “tense” ahead of the December 31 deadline, and said he believed difficulties would arise particularly around fishing.
Speaking at a convention of agricultural workers over the weekend, he said: “[Negotiating is] going to be tense because [the talks] are very tough.
“Boris Johnson has a card in his hand and it is fishing and with that he will try to gain access to the market.
“It is not certain that we will have a global deal by the end of the year.”
Meanwhile in the UK, the government is preparing to unveil its demands for the trade talks.
Ministers are expected to show their preference for a Canada-style agreement in the negotiating mandate, which is scheduled for publication on Thursday.
But this comes after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier ruled out the possibility the UK can have the same deal as Canada.
He dismissed signing up to a level playing field setting common rules and standards to prevent businesses in the UK undercutting those in the bloc, which prompted a rebuke from Mr Barnier.
The EU negotiator said: “A trade agreement that includes in particular fishing and includes a level playing field, with a country that has a very particular proximity – a unique territorial and economic closeness … it can’t be compared to Canada or South Korea or Japan.”
Canada’s deal took seven years to negotiate, with import tariffs eliminated on most goods between the nation and the bloc, though some customs and VAT checks remain.
Mr Johnson is to convene his Brexit Cabinet on Tuesday to sign off on the mandate before it is published online and laid in Parliament on Thursday.
Mr Frost and his team will then head to Brussels for the first round of negotiations on March 2.
The EU member states are expected to adopt their negotiating position on Tuesday.
Brussels is yet to publish its negotiating mandate but a leaked draft reportedly included a stipulation the UK must “return unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin”.
The Government ruled out discussing handing the Parthenon marbles, commonly called the Elgin marbles, back to Greece.