Brexit: von der Leyen and Michel will negotiate with Boris Johnson tonight
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Brexit: von der Leyen and Michel will negotiate with Boris Johnson tonight

Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel. Credit: Belga

European Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will hold a videoconference with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson regarding a future trade agreement between the EU and the UK tonight at 8:30 PM Brussels time.

While the United Kingdom left the European Union at the end of January, it remains within the EU’s customs union and single market until 31 December as the two parties negotiate an agreement on their post-Brexit relationship.

Johnson had personally set the deadline for that agreement at 15 October, this Thursday, but the stalemate continues after 9 rounds of negotiations led by Michel Barnier on the EU side and David Frost on the British side.

According to Brussels, there is still a lot of work to be done, especially in the area of fisheries, rules on state aid and ways of settling conflicts. The topic will be discussed on Thursday on the first day of the European summit in Brussels, but reaching an agreement now seems almost impossible.

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That said, it is far from certain that Johnson will effectively pull the plug on the negotiations after the European summit. According to Bloomberg press agency, the British Government is prepared to hold further talks after the deadline of 15 October.

The British still believe in a deal, if both sides negotiate very intensively in the coming days, said an insider according to Belga News Agency.

“It is in the interests of both sides to have an agreement in place,” Michel said ahead of tomorrow’s summit, according to Reuters. “This cannot, however, happen at any price. The coming days are decisive.”

EU leaders at the summit will invite Barnier to intensify negotiations, according to Euractiv, though Barnier has said that “the negotiations are in a difficult phase.”

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times