Johnson to visit Brussels as time runs out in trade talks
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to fly to Belgium capital Brussels to hold talks on a post-Brexit deal with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Time is running out to reach a deal with the UK set to stop following EU trading rules on December 31. Both will hold talks over dinner, after negotiations between officials ended in deadlock, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
Major disagreements remain on fishing rights, business competition rules and how a deal will be policed.
At the dinner, Johnson will work through a list of the major sticking points with Von der Leyen, who is representing the leaders of the 27 EU nations.
Any progress the two leaders make will not mean a deal is done but rather pave the way for more talks between officials, he said.
Johnson will take part in Prime Minister’s Questions before travelling to the Belgian capital. EU leaders are due to meet for a summit of their own on Thursday.
A British government source said progress at a political level may allow the negotiations – between the UK’s Lord Frost and EU’s Michel Barnier – to resume over the coming days.
But the source added that it was important to be “realistic” that an agreement might not be possible.
EU sources told the BBC that Barnier briefed the bloc’s Europe ministers that talks were tilting towards no deal being reached before the deadline.
The purpose of Wednesday’s dinner is not to call a halt to talks. But nor is the purpose to proclaim that a deal’s been done.
The reason for the meeting is to see if both sides are willing in principle to tolerate the notion of budging, after the negotiations, and frankly negotiators, have been exhausted.
If Johnson and Von der Leyen can look each other in the eye and agree that there are still compromises to be had, then a deal is still possible.
If they are willing to make that kind of pact – to say privately to each other, I’m willing to budge if you are too – then that would in theory allow technical talks to get going again.