Politics

Brexit: Boris Johnson to hold crunch talks with EU chiefs next week amid stalling trade negotiations

Boris Johnson will hold crunch talks with senior EU figures next week amid stalling negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal.

The prime minister will hold a “high level” meeting with European Council president Charles Michel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament president David Sassoli.

The talks, aimed at injecting some political momentum into the negotiations on a future UK-EU relationship, will take place via videoconference on Monday 15 June.

Downing Street said the UK and EU had also agreed an “intensified timetable” for negotiations.

“This new process will involve a mix of formal negotiating rounds and smaller group meetings, both in London and Brussels assuming public health guidelines enable this,” Number 10 added.

Negotiations will be held in each of the five weeks between the week beginning 29 June and week beginning 27 July.

It comes after Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator, David Frost, acknowledged the two sides had come “close to reaching the limits of what we can achieve” through formal remote rounds of negotiations between officials.

Last week, following the fourth and most recent round of talks, both the EU and UK admitted progress had been limited.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has since hit out at the UK for “looking to maintain the benefits of
being a member state without the constraints”.

UK negotiators have previously accused the bloc of seeking to impose conditions on the UK which are not found in the EU’s trade agreements with other non-member countries, such as Canada.

The areas of most difficulty in trade negotiations have been outlined by both sides as fisheries and so-called “level playing field” commitments for the UK to abide by EU rules and standards.

The UK officially left the EU in January but is currently in the Brexit transition period – meaning it maintains the status quo of membership of the bloc.

The transition period is set to expire at the end of December, with both sides having until the end of this month to agree an extension.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly said he will not seek to extend the transition period, although Mr Barnier has said the EU is in favour of an extension.

On Thursday, Mr Frost reiterated the government’s policy on the transition period, which he said “remains valid”.

He has previously said the UK will not ask to extend the transition period and, if the EU asks to extend, the UK will “say no”.

“Extending would simply prolong negotiations, create even more uncertainty, leave us liable to pay more to the EU in future, and keep us bound by evolving EU laws at a time when we need to control our own affairs,” Mr Frost said in April.

“In short, it is not in the UK’s interest to extend.”

If the Brexit transition period ends without a deal being struck, the UK will likely have to trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms from next year.

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