The European Union's Brexit negotiator told the bloc's 27 national envoys to Brussels that he still hoped a trade deal with Britain was possible, stressing that the coming days would be decisive, three diplomatic sources told Reuters.
Michel Barnier addressed the gathering on Wednesday and the three sources either participated in the discussion behind closed doors or were briefed on its content.
"Barnier still believes a deal is possible though the next days are key," said one of the EU diplomatic sources.
A second diplomat, asked what Barnier said on Wednesday and whether there was still a chance for a new agreement with the UK, said: "The hope is still there."
The first source said tentative concessions offered by the UK on fisheries - a key point of discord that has so far prevented agreement on a new EU-UK trade deal to kick in from 2021 - were "a glimmer of hope".
Reuters reported exclusively on Tuesday Britain has moved to break the deadlock despite that fact that publicly London has been threatening to breach the terms of its earlier divorce deal with the bloc.
A third source, a senior EU diplomat, confirmed the UK offer but stressed it was not going far enough for the bloc to accept.
Barnier is due to meet his UK counterpart, David Frost, around 1400 GMT in Brussels on Thursday.