Brexit: Boris Johnson to jet to Brussels in last-ditch bid to save EU deal as ‘significant differences’ remain

BORIS Johnson will jet to Brussels “in the coming days” in one last ditch bid to get a Brexit trade deal over the line.

The Prime Minister’s offer to dash across the Channel came after a “difficult” forty minute call with EU boss Ursula von der Leyen where both sides admitted their negotiation teams had reached the “end of the road.”

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Boris Johnson during Brexit talks this evening[/caption]

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Boris Johnson arriving at Downing Street ahead of talks today[/caption]

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Ursula von der Leyen said conditions for a deal are ‘not there’[/caption]

Last night insiders described the call as “difficult at times” but insisted it remained “perfectly courteous” despite gaping differences remaining between the two sides.

A senior Government source claimed there had been no movement at all since Friday in the testy standoff over fishing waters and binding Britain to EU red tape forever.

Sources said the call was “polite but firm” but clear the PM and Ms von der Leyen were “miles apart still on real make or break stuff”.

The two side’s senior negotiators were unable to forge a deal that was acceptable to Mr Johnson’s clear red lines and any hope of a breakthrough was now only at a leader’s level.

A senior Government source said: “Whilst we do not consider this process to be closed, things are looking very tricky and there’s every chance we are not going to get there.”

Mr Johnson “cannot and will not accept the current terms” according to one insider as talks face the prospect of lasting another week.

“Anyone that thinks this is going to be some turn up and sign at that moment will be disappointed, another gloomy official involved said.

Mr Johnson could travel to Brussels as soon as tomorrow (weds) ahead of a meeting of the other EU 27 countries in the Belgian capital scheduled for Thursday.

Mr Barnier had said on Monday that he would not allow the talks to continue past Wednesday, but there are some in London that think it could be days more before a deal is forged.

Some close to Mr Johnson say a breakthrough could still be a week away given the differences between the two sides and he may not travel to the continent until the weekend

A Whitehall source said: “There’s no real reason this can’t happen next week.

“The talks need a political injection and we should not be bound by time constraints on when that is. We need it to work so it should come at the right time.”

Countless self-imposed deadlines for a deal have now been missed, but both sides must ratify the new trading arrangements before 1 January 2021 or face border chaos and the economic blow of a No Deal.  

After a “working dinner” of burgers for the two sides in Brussels on Sunday night, talks went late into the night.

But both sides conceded that Brit chief negotiator David Frost and his Brussels counterpart were “going round in circles” by Monday afternoon.

NO DEAL AHEAD?

Hopes of a deal had briefly soared when Downing Street confirmed they were willing to drop contentious plans to break international law by ripping up some parts of last year’s divorce deal with Brussels if talks collapsed.

But the controversial Internal Market Bill that would give ministers the power to override the terms of last year’s “oven ready” Withdrawal Agreement may now be watered down in a move that was seen as a big olive branch to the EU.

Brussels had been infuriated by the threat, but some ministers had privately admitted it was merely a hardball negotiating tactic

Earlier in the day Ms von de Leyen had spoken with Angela Merkel and Emmanual Macron.

There is continued anger on the British side towards the French President who many blame for last minute toughening up of EU demands.

Meanwhile gloomy EU diplomats instead blame an 11th hour demand from the UK on fishing for slowing down progress.

One told The Sun: “land is slowly moving out of sight again. These are going to be decisive hours for the future of UK-EU relations and we’re at the make it or break it moment.”

EU sources said Mr Barnier had briefed member states on Monday morning that “we are not far from the very endgame, but we cannot go further than Wednesday.

“I can’t guarantee we will reach an agreement tonight, we might still have to negotiate tomorrow”, he added.

Last night the two leaders said: “As agreed on Saturday, we took stock today of the ongoing negotiations.

We agreed that the conditions for finalising an agreement are not there due to the remaining significant differences on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries.

What are the sticking points in Brexit talks?

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: Brussels wants a shared set rules and standards to ensure businesses in the UK do not have an unfair advantage over their competitors. The UK has said it won’t lower its standards, but wants to be able to set its own rules.

GOVERNANCE: Who decides what happens if the terms of the deal are breached? The EU wants an European body to decide the terms, but the UK aren’t keen on this and want an independent arbitrator to have the final say.

FISHING: The EU wants continued access to Britain’s fishing waters after we leave. It’s claimed Britain would be happy with a three year deal to phase out access, but the EU are pushing for ten. One of the key referendum claims was that Britain would be able to take back control of our borders – including fish – when we leave the EU.

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EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier pictured in Brussels today[/caption]

AP:Associated Press

Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost leaving talks in Brussels earlier[/caption]

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MPs in the House of Commons will vote on the internal markets laws today[/caption]

“We asked our Chief Negotiators and their teams to prepare an overview of the remaining differences to be discussed in a physical meeting in Brussels in the coming days.”

“A UK source added: “The Prime Minister still thinks there is a deal to be done but it has to recognise what people voted for twice. One in 2016 and again last year.”

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