MPs have been warned they may have to work on Christmas Eve, raising hopes for a short-term Brexit deal with Brussels.
Boris Johnson is reportedly preparing to postpone Parliament's Christmas break if he can get a late break with EU negotiators.
Under the plans, which are under review by the House of Commons chairman, Jacob Rees-Mogg, MPs and colleagues will be asked to sit on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday if an agreement is reached by the weekend, the Telegraph reports.
Using Christmas Eve and Boxing Day as meeting days could also be on the table, the newspaper adds.
However, Christmas Day is excluded. MEPs have not sat in parliament on Christmas Day for more than 350 years.
The contingency plans have raised hopes that an agreement is imminent. A source told the Telegraph, "It appears to be an indication that the government believes it is likely that there will be a free trade agreement."
Mr Rees-Mogg insisted last night that there is no last moment to reach a post-Brexit trade agreement with the European Union as he said talks could continue until December 31st.
He suggested that the UK would be ready to negotiate with Brussels until Big Ben strikes at 11am on New Year's Eve – the point when the “deadlock” transition phase comes to an end.
He said he believed it would take six days for a trade deal to be officially ratified by parliament, but that could be "squeezed" if time is short.
Commons chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg insisted today that there is no last moment for Britain to reach a trade deal with the EU as he proposed to continue talks until December 31st
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, reportedly told the ambassadors that the UK is now ready to address the issue of a "level playing field" for rules
His comments came after it emerged that Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors that the UK was ready to enter the "level playing field" crisis, with fishing rights now the main obstacle to a trade deal.
The EU's chief negotiator suggested that a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and Brussels could be signed this week if the UK compromises on fish.
However, the bloc's insistence that fisheries issues must be linked to trade could hurt the chances of reaching an agreement.
Meanwhile, Lord Hague said Boris Johnson had convinced the EU that he was "crazy enough" to refrain from negotiating trade without a deal.
What are the sticking points in the Brexit talks?
The UK has insisted that it regain control of its coastal waters from the end of the transition period.
However, the EU called for its fleets to maintain their previous access levels – with Emmanuel Macron facing particular pressure from the French fishing industry.
First, the UK said it would reclaim 80 percent of EU quotas from January 1.
However, Brussels suggested restoring just 18 percent.
The two sides are believed to be near a "landing zone" that has a transition period of perhaps five or seven years. However, there is still no agreement.
LEVEL PLAY FIELD
The EU has insisted that the UK commit to a level playing field to ensure that businesses on the continent are not undercut by introducing lower environmental standards and regulations.
State aid has emerged as a particular problem, especially as the coronavirus is making parts of the economy unprofitable.
However, the UK says it needs to regain sovereign powers to make rules, even though it has no plans to lower standards or distort competition by subsidizing the private sector.
It seemed that this area was close to being resolved before France reportedly put a number of additional conditions in place, including huge penalties in the form of tariffs for breaking the rules.
While the UK is happy with the "non-regression" – which means accepting current standards as a basis – it has declined requests to adhere to the rules the bloc will issue in the future.
Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors this week that the UK is now ready to accept the need for a "compensation mechanism" for rules that could resolve the dispute.
Enforcing a deal and who decides whether to break rules has been a focus from the start.
The exemption from the European Court of Justice was one of the greatest demands the Brexiter made in the EU referendum.
But Brussels has tried to maintain control of governance and insist on harsh fines and punitive tariffs for violations.
The governance problem is closely related to that of "a level playing field", with a breakthrough in the latter likely to pave the way for a breakthrough in the former.
Trade talks between the two sides continue in the hope that the path to an agreement is now in sight.
Any agreement would have to be formally ratified by the UK and the EU before it can enter into force.
With December 31st is only two weeks away, both the UK and the bloc will have to race against time to sign a treaty and go into effect before January 1st.
But Mr Rees-Mogg told the moggcast, hosted by the Conservative Home website, that Parliament has shown in the past that it can work quickly when it is needed.
He said, “You can really, really cut the parliamentary process off if you need to and if there is a will.
“If there was an agreement today, it would probably take you six days to get the text tomorrow, you would have 48 hours to write the bill, and you would have a day in the House of Commons, a day in the Lords and a day for royal approval.
“But that can be squeezed. So six days is tight, but right now I would expect the process to take six days. "
He continued, “The six days can be crushed. So I don't want to say that Christmas Day is the last day.
"There's no last moment before Big Ben strikes at 11am [December 31st]. It won't strike because it strikes midnight, but not necessarily at 11am, so I got it wrong."
Mr Rees-Mogg suggested that Parliament could retrospectively ratify the agreement after the December 31 deadline, but said that such an approach "certainly raises legal issues".
There is growing optimism that an agreement might still be possible.
Mr Barnier reportedly told a private meeting of ambassadors that an agreement could be worked out in the coming days, but only if the UK started the fishery.
He told the briefing that the UK had now accepted the need for a "rule balancing mechanism" that could resolve the "level playing field".
The mechanism would allow the UK to impose tariffs if it deviates too far from EU rules.
Lord Frost, his UK counterpart, is said to have called for the EU to abandon its insistence on linking fishing and trade in return for the concession, but Brussels refused.
This means that while progress has been made on the rules problem, the negotiators seem far from resolving it completely.
The UK does not want fishing to be linked to trade as it fears that the EU could use a fisheries dispute to suspend parts of the trade deal.
An EU diplomatic source told The Telegraph: “It was a lot less grim than I expected. If both sides can get out of their trenches with fish, Barnier said there could be a deal this week. & # 39;
Another diplomat said "there could be a narrow road to an agreement now" if the "remaining hurdles" can be overcome in the next few days.
The two sides have been bogged down on three points for months: fishing rights, a level playing field and the governance of the agreement.
The EU would like the UK to adhere to the regulations enacted in Brussels in the future to ensure fair competition between companies in the UK and companies on the continent.
Any departure by the UK from EU rules would result in Brussels imposing tariffs.
Lord Hague said Boris Johnson had "shown an effective, thoroughly convincing and true demonstration of his own readiness" to accept a chaotic break from the bloc on December 31st
The former foreign minister said the prime minister's apparent willingness to accept a chaotic split with the EU on December 31st had improved the state of the trade talks
But Britain wants the freedom to do its own thing and is reluctant to sign up for anything that would tie its hands.
The level playing field issue is closely related to governance, which relates to the enforcement of contractual terms. The EU wants to be able to impose tariffs if the UK breaches its commitments.
A breach in the rules would likely pave the way for a breakthrough in governance, leaving fishing rights as the only major issue.
Lord Hague said today that the atmosphere of the talks has "improved slightly" over the past few days and that Mr Johnson is responsible.
Former Tory Foreign Secretary, who wrote in The Telegraph, argued that the prime minister's apparent willingness to end the transition period of the deadlock on December 31st without an agreement has forced the EU to adopt a more realistic negotiating stance.
"The time has come to recognize the vital role that the Prime Minister himself will play in making this improvement," wrote Lord Hague.
“That is not to say that the government's overall approach, which has been to dig a hole that may be in violation of international law and then dig yourself out of it, has always been compelling.
“The state of preparations for all the consequences of a non-agreement in ports is not yet strong enough to be reassuring. But Boris has shown an effective, thoroughly convincing, and genuine demonstration of his own willingness to distance himself personally and politically from an unsatisfactory deal. & # 39;
Lord Hague said he still believes that a split without a deal would be "disastrous" for both the UK and the EU.
But he insisted that in a "tricky negotiation, the other side must know that you are ready to drop".
Lord Hague said of Mrs von der Leyen's dinner with Mr Johnson last weekend that the President of the European Commission "looked into his eyes and saw that he was firmly convinced that he was ready to leave without an agreement" .
"At a moment like this, it is an advantage if the other party thinks you are crazy enough to cause a lot of damage instead of settling for a bad result," he said.
Mr Johnson has warned that there is a "strong possibility" that Britain and Brussels may not reach an agreement that would force the two sides to act on basic World Trade Organization terms and impose tariffs on goods from January 1st.