The prime minister has ditched his mid-October deadline for a Brexit deal and agreed with the president of the European Commission to extend the talks.
Boris Johnson had previously said if agreement was not reached by mid October both sides should “move on” but following today’s (Saturday) video meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, an extension has been agreed.
“They agreed on the importance of finding an agreement, if at all possible, as a strong basis for a strategic EU-UK relationship in future”, read a joint statement from the leaders released today.
‘Agreed to speak on regular basis’
It continues: “They endorsed the assessment of both Chief Negotiators that progress had been made in recent weeks but that significant gaps remained, notably but not only in the areas of fisheries, the level playing field, and governance.
“They instructed their Chief Negotiators to work intensively in order to try to bridge those gaps.
“They agreed to speak on a regular basis on this issue.”
Earlier, during a visit to Leeds, Johnson reiterated his aim is for a Canada-style deal with the EU but said the UK is prepared for an Australian-type arrangement – WTO rules – if no deal is reached.
“We’re resolved on either course, we’re prepared for either course and we’ll make it work but it’s very much up to our friends and partners,” the prime minister said.
Merkel suggested EU show more flexibility
The ninth round of talks broke up yesterday (Friday) without agreement but Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator will arrive in London this week for another round of talks with his UK counterpart Lord (David) Frost. Follow up talks will be held the week after when Frost travels to Brussels.
Frost tweeted a link to the “agreed statement” from Johnson and von der Leyen, adding “it instructs me and @MichelBarnier to work intensively to bridge the gaps between us. That work begins as soon as we can next week.”
The Guardian report that Barnier will first visit Angela Merkel in Germany on Monday after the chancellor “had suggested on Friday that the EU would show fresh flexibility.”
Raab and Gove address Tory party virtual conference
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab weighed into the issue today, addressing the virtual Conservative party conference, and telling those logged on: “The days of being held over a barrel by Brussels are long gone.”
He added: “Under the Conservatives, there is no question: our Government will control our fisheries, our Parliament will pass our laws and our courts will judge them.”
Michael Gove told conference: “I suspect there will be one or two ups and downs along the way but I am optimistic that we will get a deal.
“But if we don’t, we have been making extensive preparations to be ready for anything.
“The British people voted for us to leave, we are determined to honour that.
“But obviously if we can secure a negotiated outcome and a free trade agreement, that would be hugely helpful for sectors of the economy.”