Politics

Von der Leyen blocks Boris’ plea for face to face Macron and Merkel talks to save Brexit

Brexit: Johnson and von der Leyen release trade talks statement

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is understood to have asked for the French President and German Chancellor to join his Brexit talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this week as negotiations go down to the wire. But Ms von der Leyen said no, according to politics news site, Politico.eu.

Mr Johnson’s demands to speak with Mr Macron come as France has publicly threatened to veto any deal if it is unhappy with the terms, amid signs the French President is anxious Mr Barnier is preparing to give too much ground on fishing rights in his determination to get a deal.

London and Brussels have found control of the seas a perennial sticking point in trade negotiations, with supporters of Leave saying Brexit should mean Britain getting its country, and its fish, back.

Mr Johnson will head to Brussels in the coming days to meet Ms von der Leyen in an attempt to bridge significant differences in Brexit talks over level playing field, governance and fisheries.

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Following a 45-minute phone call, the pair released a joint statement saying: ”As agreed on Saturday, we took stock today of the ongoing negotiations.

“We agreed that the conditions for finalising an agreement are not there, due to the remaining significant differences on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries.

“We asked our chief negotiators and their teams to prepare an overview of the remaining differences to be discussed in a physical meeting in Brussels in the coming days.”

Their second call in a little over 48 hours came after Michel Barnier and Lord David Frost spent the day talking in Brussels.

The negotiators spent the last week talking in London, but failed to break the deadlock – with issues remaining on fishing, governance and the so-called level-playing field.

Downing Street said earlier on Monday that it was prepared to continue talks for “as long as we have time available”, though admitted time was in “very short supply”.

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The comments appeared to be at odds with the EU’s chief negotiator Mr Barnier, who reportedly told MEPs the deadline for talks succeeding is Wednesday.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “Time is obviously in very short supply and we’re in the final stages, but we’re prepared to negotiate for as long as we have time available if we think an agreement is still possible.”

But in an olive branch to Brussels, the Government said it was prepared to remove three controversial clauses from the UK Internal Market Bill relating to the Irish border.

In a statement, the Government said the UK and EU have “worked constructively together through the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee.

“Discussions continue to progress and final decisions are expected in the coming days. If the solutions being considered in those discussions are agreed, the UK Government would be prepared to remove clause 44 of the UK Internal Market Bill, concerning export declarations.

“The UK Government would also be prepared to deactivate clauses 45 and 47, concerning state aid, such that they could be used only when consistent with the United Kingdom’s rights and obligations under international law.”

 

If there is no deal by the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the month, then Britain will leave the single market and the customs union and begin trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms, with the imposition of tariffs and quotas.

Before then it has to be ratified by both Houses of Parliament in the UK and the European Parliament as well as signed off by the EU leaders.

There had been hopes that could happen at a two-day summit in the Belgian capital starting on Thursday – their final scheduled gathering of the year – but the timetable is looking increasingly tight.

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