THE European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is preparing for talks with the UK to collapse, it has emerged.

In an interview published in France yesterday the top official signalled civil servants in Brussels were ready if the ongoing discussions between the two sides break down.

Asked about a no deal situation, Barnier said he was not seeking such an outcome but that preparations were being made for such a situation.

"It's a possibility. Everyone needs to plan for it, member states and businesses alike. We too are making technical preparations for it. On 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will become a third country," he told the newspaper Journal Du Dimanche.

His comments come as Theresa May meets business groups from across the continent today to discuss a future trading relationship with the EU.

Barnier also repeated the UK must make clear how much of a financial settlement it is willing to pay to leave the bloc.

At a press conference on Friday following round six of negotiations, he gave the UK a fortnight to "clarify" its offer of £20 billion.

Barnier has not publicly specified what he would agree to, but figures of between £60 billion to £100 billion have been suggested by experts as the amount of money the EU is expecting for the UK's financial obligations to the bloc.

However some hardline Brexiteers don't want the UK to hand over any money.Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in July European leaders can “go whistle” if they expect Britain to pay any money to Brussels.

Barnier warned on Friday that a summit set for 14-15 December "will be postponed" if there is not more progress on the talks "within the next 14 working days".

Representatives of the CBI and other business lobby groups from across Europe are expected to call for more clarity on the future trading relationship and guarantees on a transitional deal to prevent a "cliff-edge" Brexit with the bloc when they meet the PM in Downing Street today.

May has said she expects an "implementation period" of about two years, but last month told MPs there will be no transitional deal unless the UK had agreed its future trade partnership with the EU. Her remarks alarmed MPs fighting against a hard Brexit.

Business groups have been intensively lobbying for the UK Government to agree the terms of transition with the EU by Christmas, before companies make their financial plans for 2018.

EU leaders are due to assess at a summit in December whether "sufficient progress" has been made in terms of the UK's exit from the EU to progress to the second round of talks on future trade relations.

Earlier today Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said that "time is very short" ahead of the summit - so "it is understandable that chief negotiator Barnier is underlining how necessary immediate action and immediate proposals by Britain are".

Seibert stressed Germany's position that "it is in our interest for these negotiations between the European Commission and the British to continue as constructively as possible".

Meanwhile, a senior German politician indicated that he is concerned about Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.

News agency dpa reported that Thomas Steffen, a deputy finance minister, told an economic conference in Frankfurt today that "we should all be prepared for the worst case actually happening in March 2019".

He added: "And then we will see whether anyone in London or anywhere else can produce a different scenario. Today, I don't see it."