Johnson voices ‘disappointment’ at slow progress in talks with EU

Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen
Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen - (Copyright PA Archive)
21:13pm, Wed 14 Oct 2020
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Boris Johnson has expressed “disappointment” that talks with the EU on a post-Brexit trade deal have not made more progress, Downing Street said.

On the eve of an EU summit in Brussels, the Prime Minister said he would “reflect” on the outcome of the two-day meeting before deciding the UK’s next steps.

He has previously indicated that he would walk away from the negotiating table if there was no agreement by the time of the summit.

Ahead of the gathering in the Belgian capital, Mr Johnson discussed the “latest state of play” in a call with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister noted the desirability of a deal, but expressed his disappointment that more progress had not been made over the past two weeks.

“The Prime Minister said that he looked forward to hearing the outcome of the European Council and would reflect before setting out the UK’s next steps in the light of his statement of September 7.”

Mrs von der Leyen said they were continuing to work on a deal, but that the “conditions must be right” if there was to be an agreement.

“The EU is working on a deal, but not at any price. Still a lot of work ahead of us,” she tweeted.

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen agreed to “intensify” negotiations in a final push for a wide-ranging agreement covering Britain’s relationship with the EU when the current Brexit transition period ends at the end of the year.

However, the EU side has been resisting efforts by the British side to impose a tight deadline in an attempt to force through an agreement.

The UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost is expected to brief Mr Johnson on the negotiations with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier – which have been continuing this week – before a final decision on whether it is worth continuing.

Earlier, Number 10 said progress had been made over the last few days – primarily in technical areas – but that differences still remain, namely over fishing rights.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Some progress has been made this week, primarily in technical areas of the negotiations, but there are still differences, with fisheries being the starkest.

“We need to get the substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.

“The Prime Minister’s September 7 statement was very clear about the significance of October 15.

“He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team.

“I cannot prejudge what that decision will be.”

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