Brexit: PM ‘disappointed’ with progress ahead of EU summit

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Boris Johnson will decide on the “next steps” for post-Brexit trade talks after an EU summit later this week, Downing Street has said.

No 10 said the PM expressed “disappointment” at recent progress in a call with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday.

Mr Johnson has previously set Thursday’s meeting of EU leaders as the deadline for a deal.

Mrs von der Leyen said the EU wanted a deal, “but not at any price”.

Both sides are calling on the other to compromise on key issues, including fishing and limits on government subsidies to businesses.

They are locked in talks over striking an agreement to govern their trading relationship once the UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends in December.

A No 10 spokesperson said Mr Johnson “noted the desirability of a deal” during his pre-summit call with Mrs von der Leyen.

However, the PM also “expressed his disappointment that more progress had not been made over the past two weeks,” they added.

“The prime minister said that he looked forward to hearing the outcome of the European Council and would reflect before setting out the UK’s next steps”.

Earlier, a No 10 spokesman said fishing rights remained the “starkest” point of difference ahead of Thursday’s two-day EU leaders’ summit.

‘Lot of work’

Speaking after her call with the prime minister, Mrs von der Leyen said: “The EU is working on a deal, but not at any price.”

She added that “conditions must be right” on fishing, post-Brexit competition rules and how a deal is enforced for the EU to sign an agreement.

She added: “Still a lot of work ahead of us.”

European Council President Charles Michel also joined the call with Mrs von der Leyen and the Mr Johnson on Wednesday evening.

In a letter to EU leaders ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Mr Michel said reaching a deal before December was “in the interests of both sides”.

He added that as well as fishing rights, “key issues” for a deal included post-Brexit rules on competition and how a deal would be enforced.

Why does 15 October matter?

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Over the summer, both the UK and EU seemed to agree the end of October was the final date to get a deal done – allowing enough time for it to be ratified before 31 December.

But come 7 September, Boris Johnson decided to shorten the deadline.

He said if a deal wasn’t reached by 15 October, “then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on”.

Thursday is that day – but Downing Street appears to have moved back from it as a hard deadline.

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