Johnson: Brexit deal with the EU ‘there to be done’
A Brexit deal with the EU remains “there to be done”, Boris Johnson has said, as trade negotiations are set to resume next week.
The Prime Minister said “the broad outlines are pretty clear” and that European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen “totally agrees”.
Mr Johnson added there is also “a good chance” of the UK securing a trade deal with the United States following Joe Biden’s presidential election win.
It comes as the Prime Minister and Ms von der Leyen agreed during a phone call on Saturday to “redouble efforts” to reach a UK-EU trade deal and signed off on talks continuing next week.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister had told his Brussels counterpart that there remained “significant differences” in the UK-EU negotiations, with the two sides continuing to be apart on their positions over fishing rights and a level playing field agreement.
The call follows two weeks of intensified talks between the UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost and his European Union equivalent Michel Barnier ahead of further discussions in London next week.
The broad outlines are pretty clear, we just need to get on and do it if we can
Speaking about the negotiations, Mr Johnson said: “I’ve always been a great enthusiast for a trade deal with our European friends and partners, I think it is there to be done.
“The broad outlines are pretty clear, we just need to get on and do it if we can. I’ve said that to Ursula von der Leyen just yesterday and she totally agrees with me.
“On the trade deal with the US, I am a keen student of the United States trade policy and they’re tough negotiators, and I’ve never believed this was going to be something that was going to be a complete pushover under any US administration.
“I think there is a good chance we’ll do something – Liz Truss and her team’s made a huge amount of progress – and we’ll get on.”
Earlier on Sunday, Dominic Raab said he was “confident” that the Northern Ireland hurdles could be overcome to ensure the UK achieves a trade deal.
The Foreign Secretary added he believed the UK Government would be able to ally American fears and navigate the Northern Ireland issue to satisfy allies in the US following president-elect Biden’s victory.
Mr Rabb told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “We’ve been very clear we are absolutely committed to respect the Good Friday Agreement but our argument is, and it was good to have the opportunity when I was in Washington to explain, it is the EU who has put pressure on that with the approach it has taken.
“We want to resolve all those issues with the EU – obviously the negotiations are ongoing, there is a good chance of a deal if we get the flexibility from the EU on fisheries and level-playing field.
“I’m confident we will navigate all of those issues sensitively, correctly, and, as I said, we listen very carefully to our American friends, particularly on the Hill and in the Irish lobby – they feel very invested in the Good Friday Agreement, we understand that, and I pay tribute to what George Mitchell and Bill Clinton did – but it is not the UK which is putting it at risk, it is the approach of the EU.”
Asked whether a trade deal could be secured with the EU by the end of the week, the Foreign Secretary added: “I spoke to David Frost yesterday, the issues are where they are. The Prime Minister has spoken to Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the Commission, and negotiations are ongoing.
“What I would say is that it still boils down to two basic issues. There is progress being made but we’ve got to see whether it is enough to get us over the line.
“There are some core interests at stake for the UK, points of democratic principle around control of our laws, control of our fisheries as an independent coastal state.
“I don’t think we can toss those aside. But if the EU shows the flexibility, the good will to meet us halfway, I am confident a deal can still be done.”
Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen’s conversation last month led to discussions being “intensified” before a fallout after the European Council meeting on October 15 briefly derailed the negotiations.
After Saturday’s phone call, UK chief negotiator Lord Frost tweeted: “Prime Minister Boris Johnson and commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke today about our negotiations with the EU.
“My talks with Michel Barnier will continue in London on Monday.”