European Union to continue pursuing United Kingdom trade deal

  • European Union to continue pursuing United Kingdom trade deal

European Union to continue pursuing United Kingdom trade deal

The 27 bloc leaders arrived for a summit in Brussels expressing cautious optimism but, in their written conclusions, urged the European Union and its member states to step up preparations for a chaotic "no-deal" exit.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who in September had made today a deadline for an agreement to be reached, had indicated he would take stock of the leaders' comments today before deciding whether it is worth continuing with the "future relationship" talks or not.

European diplomats said there had been some positive movement from Britain on rules of fair trade in recent days, but not enough to warrant locking the negotiators into a so-called "diplomatic tunnel" to force the talks over the finish line.

Speaking as he arrived for the discussions, Taoiseach Michael Martin acknowledged there were still key stumbling blocks that need to be addressed, with the need for a fair fisheries deal high on the agenda. Johnson has said he'll quit the talks unless he gets clarity at this week's summit that a deal can be done.

He said Johnson will respond himself on Friday.

Johnson is set to decide after the European Union summit ends on Friday whether to pull the plug on the talks, but officials from both sides who are close to the negotiations point to them continuing for a few more weeks.

European officials brushed off Frost's complaints and insisted they won't persuade the bloc to shift its stance, and several voiced irritation, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the negotiations. But there is still time - just - for the two sides to clinch a deal.

Mr Johnson set a deadline of yesterday's European Council summit in Brussels for a deal to be "in sight".

Earlier drafts of the summit conclusions had demanded "intensified negotiations" but that was watered down by European capitals before the meeting of heads of state and government.

Mr Raab, a former Brexit Secretary, said the Government was "surprised by the attitude and the disposition" of the leaders.

An EU official, familiar with the contents of the call, said the EU side pushed back against what it saw as United Kingdom attempts to leave fisheries as the last sticking point to be sorted out. "This of course means that we too have to make compromises". That said, while the EU's self-imposed deadline is for the end of the month, as has been highlighted this week, soft-deadlines are rarely met and thus negotiations can spill into November.

Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, said that the trade deal had to be "balanced" with no winners or losers in the negotiations.

During the call, 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", a Downing Street spokesperson said.

Mr Barnier also held out the prospect of a two-week extension to Mr Johnson's 15 October deadline, by adding that his team would travel for London for talks next week and would host negotiations in Brussels the week after.