UK, EU leaders to discuss Brexit, free trade talks
London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday will “take stock” of negotiations on a post-Brexit free trade deal and to “discuss next steps,” officials said.
The announcement by both sides came as they were winding up another weeklong session of detailed negotiations on a rudimentary free trade agreement that should come in force once a Brexit transition period ends Dec. 31.
Little progress has been made on such a deal since the U.K. left the bloc at the end of January.
Both sides have acknowledged that time is running out if they are to achieve an agreement before the current Brexit transition period comes to an end at the end of the year.
Johnson has said he is prepared to walk away from the negotiations if there is no agreement by the time of the next EU summit on Oct. 15. The EU sees a deadline at the end of the month, allowing for two months to get any deal through legislative approval.
Complicating the trade talks further are Britain’s plans to breach an international agreement it signed with the EU to regulate trade on the island of Ireland, where both sides have their only land border separating the U.K.’s Northern Ireland from EU member Ireland.
U.K. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said there were still some “very significant issues” which needed to be resolved if they were to get an agreement.
“There isn’t very much time now so we are urging the EU to show flexibility and pragmatism in these final stages of the talks,” he told the BBC.
“We hope that we can move swiftly now to reach the kind of sensible trading that we would like to see,” Jenrick said.
“Of course, as we have always said, that if that isn’t possible then we are perfectly content to see the transition period end and us to continue to trade on the same sort of arrangements” as many other nations that trade on rules set out by the World Trade Organization.