The European Union must prepare for the possibility that talks for a deal with Britain over their future relationship could fail, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.
"I will keep pushing for a good solution, but the EU and Germany too must and should prepare for the case that an agreement is not reached," Merkel told the Bundestag as Europe's biggest economy takes over the presidency of the 27-member bloc.
Britain officially completed its delayed departure from the European integration project on January 31.
London and Brussels now have until the end of December to strike a brand new agreement or end their half-century relationship without specific plans for how they intend to trade or coexist in other fields.
Without a new agreement, they would see ties reduced to minimum standards set by the World Trade Organisation with high tariffs and serious disruptions to business.
After several months of disruption by the coronavirus pandemic, the EU and Britain launched Monday an intense five weeks of negotiations on a deal to define their post-Brexit relations, with London keen to wrap things up quickly.
With both sides still entrenched in their positions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had insisted Saturday that Britain was ready to accept the consequences of no deal if common ground cannot be found.
Merkel had also sharpened her tone, questioning in an interview if London really wanted a deal.
A deal would have to be done by the autumn to give national parliaments as well as the EU parliament enough time to ratify the agreement.