Extensive Brexit trade deal off table as EU finally scramble after running down clock

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BORIS Johnson will hold a showdown with EU leaders next week to help force a breakthrough in a post-Brexit trade deal, it was confirmed last night.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister will take part in a “high-level” summit with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Council president Charles Michel and the president of the European Parliament, David-Maria Sassoli on Monday. Mr Johnson hopes to inject political momentum into the stalled process following weeks of stalemate. As it stands, Britain will leave the EU single market when the Brexit transition period finishes at the end of the year with nothing to replace it – unless a deal is agreed.

Talks have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, with little progress being made since Britain officially left the EU on January 31.

The UK has rejected the EU’s demand for a detailed “level playing field”, arguing it goes far beyond the scope of a normal free trade agreement and would tie Britain into following the bloc’s laws indefinitely.

Fishing rights and agricultural tariffs are other sticking points that need to be resolved if a deal is to be agreed.

A No. 10 spokesman said: “The high level meeting between the Prime Minister and President von der Leyen and President Michel will take place by video conference on the afternoon of Monday June 15.”

It is understood that Mrs von der Leyen will use the meeting to “reset talks” with the UK and herald a new push towards a “bare minimum Brexit”.

An EU diplomat said: “The baseline has moved down significantly, we’re no longer talking about a broad and comprehensive trade agreement.

“At this end the trajectory for the best case scenario is a minimum trade agreement.”

The trade-talks are now expected to intensify throughout July.

A UK spokesperson said: “The UK and the EU have agreed an intensified timetable for FTA negotiations in July.

 “This new process will involve a mix of formal negotiating rounds and smaller group meetings, both in London and Brussels assuming public health guidelines enable this.

 “There will be talks each week of the 5 weeks between 29 June and 27 July.”

Michael Gove yesterday said that the EU’s chief negotiator is ready to budge on key areas in the trade talks.

The Cabinet Office minister told MPs Michel Barnier has indicated progress can be made on fisheries and state aid, among other issues.

But some EU member states have been a “little more reluctant”, Mr Gove added.

The minister also insisted Britain will “under no circumstances” accept an extension to the Brexit transition and played down reports of a rift between himself and Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Speaking in the Commons Mr Gove said “progress has been made” in the trade talks.

“And Michel Barnier, on a number of issues, on fisheries and on state aid, has indicated that he is inclined to move,” he said.

“Some EU member states have been a little more reluctant.

“I think it would be in everyone’s interests, EU member states, the Commission, and of course the UK Government, if Michel Barnier were able to use the flexibility that he has deployed in the past in order to secure an arrangement that would work in everyone’s interests.”

Mr Gove added: “Our excellent chief negotiator David Frost has made it clear to Michel Barnier that we will be an independent coastal state, we will control who has access to our waters and on what terms and access to our waters will be subject to annual negotiations.”

Opening the Cabinet Office questions session, Mr Gove also made clear the Government’s refusal to extend the transition period.

He explained: “The transition period ends on December 31, 2020.

“Under no circumstances will the Government accept an extension.

“Indeed, we have a domestic law obligation not to accept.

“Extending simply delays the moment at which we achieve what we want and what the country voted for, our economic and political independence.”

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