Moment of truth looms on Brexit trade deal: Boris Johnson holds make-or-break talks with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen TODAY as Merkel urges ‘realism’ to settle issues on fishing and level playing field rules

  • Boris Johnson is holding crunch talks with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen today
  • Discussions come one day before EU summit – PM’s deadline for a breakthrough
  • Angela Merkel has called for the EU to be more realistic in trade talks with UK 

Boris Johnson will hold make or break post-Brexit trade talks with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen today as the clock ticks down to the Prime Minister’s negotiating deadline.

Mr Johnson has made clear he wants the broad outlines of a deal to be in place by tomorrow’s EU Council summit in Brussels, but significant differences still remain.

The premier and the president of the European Commission will try to get discussions over the line after Angela Merkel called for the bloc to be more realistic on key issues like fishing rights. 

The German Chancellor said in order for a deal to be done it will have to be ‘in the interests of both parties’. 

Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen will speak by phone while Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, and Lord Frost, his UK counterpart, meet in person in Brussels. 

Lord Frost is due to advise the PM tomorrow on whether he believes there is a visible path to a deal, amid claims Britain will walk away if an accord is not in sight.     

Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, pictured in Downing Street in January this year, will hold crunch post-Brexit trade talks today

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pictured in Berlin on October 9, has called for the EU to be more realistic in talk with the UK

Ms Merkel appeared to set the stage for a potential breakthrough as she told a meeting of European mayors that a deal was ‘particularly urgent’ for Ireland.   

She said: ‘We are going to continue to stand together in these withdrawal talks.

‘But we also have to take into account the reality: an agreement has to be in the interests of both parties, in British interests as well as the interests of the 27-member EU.’ 

Mr Johnson will use today’s talks with Ms von der Leyen to figure out whether a trade deal is possible by tomorrow’s summit as the leaders of the 27 EU countries meet in Brussels.

The PM told his Cabinet yesterday that he still believes an agreement can be reached – but that failing to do so should hold ‘no fear’, his official spokesman said.

Mr Barnier has suggested that talks will go beyond Mr Johnson’s October deadline. 

European Council president Charles Michel said member states will discuss the EU-UK negotiations with Mr Barnier before dinner at tomorrow’s summit.

In an invitation letter to Council members, Mr Michel wrote: ‘It is in the interests of both sides to have an agreement in place before the end of the transition period. 

‘This cannot, however, happen at any price. The coming days are decisive.

‘I will invite our negotiator to update us on the latest developments. Key issues include, in particular, the level playing field, fisheries and governance.’

The post-Brexit standstill transition period is due to expire at the end of this year but both sides want a deal to be agreed before winter so there is time to ratify and implement it. 

Should no agreement be struck then the UK will trade with the bloc on World Trade Organisation terms from January 2021. 

The Government has described this approach as an Australia-style arrangement. 

Australia has no comprehensive trade deal with the EU but it also does far less business with Brussels than the UK.   

A no deal split would see the EU impose tariffs on UK goods, with business groups warning this would damage British firms at a time when they can least afford it because of the coronavirus crisis.      

The two signs remain deadlocked on a handful of issues, including fishing rights, ‘level playing field’ arrangements on EU rules and the way any deal will be governed. 

Lord Frost and Michel Barnier will hold talks in Brussels today on the eve of a European Council summit 

Michael Roth, Germany’s Europe minister, said yesterday the UK will have to give more ground in these areas for a deal to be done. 

He also claimed a no trade deal divorce would be worse for Britain than it would be for the bloc. 

‘We will see in the next few days whether a positive outcome can be achieved, or whether we have to intensify our preparations for a scenario without an agreement,’ he said. 

‘And let me be very clear – and this is also a message to our British friends – no-one should play down the risks of a no deal. 

‘This would be very bad news for everyone, for the EU and even more so for the United Kingdom. In the midst of the most serious economic downturn in decades, it would inflict our citizens yet another serious economic setback.’ 

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