Cabinet Office Michael Gove has said he believes the chances of an agreement with the EU on a post-Brexit trade deal are “less than 50%”.
Giving evidence to the Commons Brexit Committee, Mr Gove said the “most likely outcome” was that the current transition period would end on December 31 without a deal.
“I think, regrettably, the chances are more likely that we won’t secure an agreement. So at the moment less than 50%,” he said.
This is at odds with the comments made by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday, when she said "there is a path to an agreement now."
"I cannot tell you whether there will be a deal or not, but I can tell you there is a path to an agreement now," Ms von der Leyen said.
"The path may be narrow but it is there. It is therefore our responsibility to continue trying."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak to Ms von der Leyen at 7pm on Thursday to discuss the state of play in the Brexit negotiations, Downing Street has said.
Mr Gove has said that while the negotiations with the EU had made progress, “significant” differences between the two sides remained.
“The process of negotiation has managed to narrow down areas of difference. It is certainly the case that there are fewer areas of difference now than there were in October or indeed July,” he told the Commons Brexit Committee.
“The areas of difference are still significant and they do go to the very heart of the mandate which the country gave the Government in 2016.”
Michael Gove has said the Government will not seek to negotiate a fresh trade agreement with the EU next year if they cannot reach a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period.
The Cabinet Office minister told the Commons Brexit Committee that December 31 was a “fixed point in law,” when the transition must end.
“That would be it. We would have left on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms,” he said.
“It is still the case of course that there would be contact between the UK and European nations and politicians as one would expect.
“But what we would not be doing is attempting to negotiate a new deal.”