UK and EU “not far apart” on future relationship, PM says
Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that the UK and EU are “not far apart” in terms of their respective positions on post-Brexit relations, but both sides agreed that talks needed “new momentum” after remote talks on Monday.
Johnson, who spoke to EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council president Charles Michel, and European Parliament president David-Maria Sassoli over videoconference, added that “a bit of oomph” was needed in negotiations but there was a “very good” chance of a free-trade deal being agreed by the December deadline.
The meeting essentially came as a progress review for negotiations after both UK chief negotiator David Frost and the EU’s leading negotiator Michel Barnier both agreed that progress had been limited in talks thus far, and that negotiators were “reaching the limits” of what could be achieved from formal talks in their previous format.
Sticking points in negotiations include issues such as fisheries, competition laws, police co-operation, and how any deal would effectively be enforced.
Von der Leyen said that both sides had agreed to “deliver the best deal” for citizens, while Johnson said that he would not rule out a deal being “done in July”, when both sides are due to take part in a revised and more intense schedule of negotiations which will involve face-to-face meetings should the progress of the coronavirus pandemic make it possible.
In a joint statement following Monday’s meeting, both sides “welcomed the constructive discussions” on their future relationship and said that both parties “agreed” that “new momentum was required”.
The statement also said that both sides will at least look to establish “an early understanding on the principles” underlying a deal by the end of July.
The EU has also acknowledged the UK’s decision not to extend the post-Brexit transition period, which will lapse on December 31, 2020 and form the cut-off point for a deal to be agreed. Should a deal not be in place by then, UK-EU trade will default to World Trade Organization terms.
Johnson urged the EU following the meeting to “put a tiger in the tank”, adding that a deal was in reach by the end of the year if both sides “get on and do it”.
The PM said: "I certainly don't want to see it going on until the autumn or winter as I think perhaps in Brussels they would like. I don't see any point in that so let's get it done."
Meanwhile, European Council president Michel said that a “broad and ambitious agreement” was in the “mutual interest” of both parties.