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In a typical Brexit plot twist, the dinner between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen was neither a success nor a failure.
On the one hand, the mood music was not good, with both sides offering a gloomy assessment in the wake of the meeting. A Downing Street spokesperson said the pair had a “frank discussion” but “major differences” remain. Von der Leyen sounded a tad more upbeat. The discussion was “lively and interesting” but the positions “remain far apart,” she said in a statement.
The fact the two sides issued separate takes instead of a joint statement was itself not a good sign. With three weeks to go before the end of the transition period, those hopeful of a deal might have been eager for more.
However, the stated objective of the meeting was not to clinch a deal or even to make a significant breakthrough, it was just to allow negotiators to keep talking. That will now happen.
The new deadline for progress is this Sunday, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab made clear on BBC’s Radio 4 “Today” program that the