LONDON — The Brexit stock-take summit was all about rhetorical style over substance.
Boris Johnson said he told EU leaders on a video call the two sides should “put the tiger in the tank” — a throwback to the old Esso petrol adverts, meaning to refuel with something powerful.
He added, to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and European Parliament President David Sassoli, that talks needed some “oomph.”
The prime minister tried to inject a bit of his own oomph after the meeting, saying in a TV clip that the two sides are not so far apart and a deal is possible within the next six weeks.
“What we already said today is the faster we can do this the better, we see no reason why you shouldn’t get that done in July,” he declared. “I certainly don’t want to see it going on until the [fall]/winter as I think perhaps in Brussels they would like.”
“Ready to put a tiger in the tank but not to buy a pig in a poke. Level playing field is essential” — Charles Michel, European Council president
The proposal will have come as a surprise to his EU interlocutors: it was not discussed at the meeting.
While leaders did agree negotiators could reach “an early understanding” of the principles underpinning an agreement, no six-week plan was agreed.