Brexit: Johnson and von der Leyen to meet in Brussels tonight

Brexit: Johnson and von der Leyen to meet in Brussels tonight
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Credit: Belga

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to travel to Brussels on Wednesday evening to discuss post-Brexit relations with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“We will continue our discussion on the Partnership Agreement,” von der Leyen tweeted on Tuesday as the end of a Brexit transition period looms, after which the UK will no longer be part of the EU’s single market or customs union.

Johnson and von der Leyen spoke on Monday, when they “took stock (…) of the ongoing negotiations,” they said in a joint statement, adding that they “agreed that the conditions for finalizing an agreement” on post-Brexit relations were missing, with three critical issues: a so-called level playing field, governance, and fisheries.

Johnson on Tuesday said that “you’ve got to believe there’s the power of sweet reason” to reach a post-Brexit agreement, while cautioning that a deal was “looking very, very difficult at the moment.”

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The new meeting comes on the eve of a European summit and may be the final opportunity to reach an agreement. Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier had set Wednesday evening as a deadline to reach an agreement.

The summit, then, could mark the presentation of the broad outlines of an agreement or the preparation of emergency measures.

Barnier, chief UK negotiator David Frost and their teams were asked “to prepare an overview of the remaining differences” ahead of the meeting.

Barnier on Tuesday tweeted that they were “working closely,” while warning that “we will never sacrifice our future for the present. Access to our market comes with conditions.

If a post-Brexit trade agreement between the EU and the UK cannot be reached, World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules will apply from 1 January 2021. Those rules would see the introduction of high tariffs and extensive customs controls.

Jason Spinks

The Brussels Times

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