Boris Johnson to host Brexit crunch talks with EU next week

11 June 2020, 21:44

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen
Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Boris Johnson will take part in a virtual summit with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen to try to break the deadlock in post-Brexit trade negotiations before the pace of talks are intensified.

The Prime Minister and the European Commission's president will take part in the "high level" talks on Monday, after negotiators on both sides acknowledged a lack of progress.

The teams have also agreed to "an intensified timetable" for July with possible discussions in person if public health guidelines enable them during the coronavirus pandemic.

European Council president Charles Michel and the president of the European Parliament, David-Maria Sassoli will also join the political talks.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The UK and the EU have agreed an intensified timetable for FTA negotiations in July.

"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."

Michel Barnier has said the UK cannot cherry pick in the Brexit talks
Michel Barnier has said the UK cannot cherry pick in the Brexit talks. Picture: PA

The UK is in a transition period in which it continues to follow EU rules until the end of the year.

But businesses and critics have called on the UK to ask for an extension before the end-of-July deadline to prevent a damaging cliff-edge departure.

The pace of talks will be scaled up so negotiators will meet in each of the five weeks between June 29 and July 27, No 10 said.

The new details came after the fourth round of negotiations failed to reach a breakthrough last week.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier lamented there having been "no significant areas of progress" as he accused the UK of having "backtracking" on the agreed political declaration.

His counterpart in Downing Street, David Frost, said they would have to "intensify and accelerate" the process if there was to be any chance of an agreement.

Both sides also said the remote meetings had reached their limit and that face-to-face meetings would be needed in order to progress.

It follows EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's statement that he "cannot and will not" allow cherry picking in Brexit trade talks.

On Wednesday he said: "Britain is demanding a lot more from the EU than Canada, Japan or other partners."

"We cannot and we will not allow this cherry picking."

Boris Johnson has previously asserted that he will not extend any talks beyond the Brexit transition period, despite numerous warnings that the coronavirus could hinder progress.

The latest round of talks between the two sides concluded on Friday, however no breakthroughs were made.