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LONDON — As the Brexit game of chicken nears the end game, some of Boris Johnson’s top team think it’s time to strike a deal.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove are among a group of senior government figures now urging caution over a looming no-deal scenario which many observers say could be disastrous for the U.K. economy, according to government officials.
And while officials say that the resignation of two senior advisers in recent days — including the prime minister’s closest aide Dominic Cummings — had nothing to do with Brexit, it may have given Johnson more room for maneuver. Both Cummings and communications chief Lee Cain were part of the Vote Leave team that won the referendum and propelled Johnson’s rise to power. They have also been key figures in a powerful Downing Street faction that has often urged an uncompromising response to demands from Brussels for more movement in the talks from the U.K. government.
After weeks of deadlock over fishing rights and state aid rules, officials in London and Brussels say that now, the main sticking point in the talks is the EU’s demand for a “non-regression” clause in any eventual trade deal. That would prevent the U.K. undercutting the EU in future by requiring a minimum level of standards in certain areas.
Face-to-face talks will end in London on Friday and are expected to pause for the weekend before resuming in Brussels Monday. EU officials are pointing to a videoconference between EU leaders next Thursday as the informal deadline for the U.K. to decide.
Johnson must decide whether to keep negotiating beyond that date in the hope of obtaining EU concessions by running down the clock,