PM poised for talks with EU figureheads on Monday
Prime minister Boris Johnson will engage EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council president Charles Michel and European Parliament president David-Maria Sassoli in video-conference talks on Monday to help revive post-Brexit trade negotiations.
There has been minimal progress in talks over a free-trade agreement between the UK and EU thus far, with differences remaining over key issues such as fisheries, police co-operation, how the deal would be enforced, and competition.
A decision must be made by the end of June on whether the post-Brexit transition period, the negotiating window for a free-trade agreement, should be extended beyond December 31, 2020.
The government has long insisted it will not pursue an extension, even if the EU favours it.
This week, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove reiterated that pledge, vowing before MPs that the UK will not accept an extension “under any circumstances”, before adding on Friday that he had "formally confirmed" with the EU that the transition period will not be prolonged.
Gove also suggested that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had hinted that progress can be made on issues such as fisheries and state aid, yet some EU member states had been “more reluctant”.
Gove told the Commons: "I think it would be in everyone's interests, EU member states, the Commission, and of course the UK government, if Michel Barnier were able to use the flexibility that he has deployed in the past in order to secure an arrangement that would work in everyone's interests.”
Meanwhile, an intensive timetable of talks running from June 29 to July 27 has been agreed between both sides, involving some face-to-face meetings should health guidelines allow it.
Chief UK negotiator David Frost was pleased to have an “intensified talks process” finalised, after the remotely conducted rounds of formal negotiations that have been ongoing through the Covid-19 pandemic had “reached their limit” in terms of progress.
Frost also reiterated the point that the UK’s policy of opposing an extension to the transition period will remain in place.