Shropshire Star

EU leaders take stock as Johnson vents frustration at slow pace of talks

PM says he will ‘reflect’ on the outcome of Brussels summit before deciding whether to continue with talks on post-Brexit trade deal.

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EU leaders are to take stock of the talks with the UK on a post-Brexit trade deal amid “frustration” in London at the slow progress.

Ahead of the latest EU summit in Brussels, Boris Johnson voiced his “disappointment” that they had not been able to move forward more quickly.

The Prime Minister had previously said that he would walk away from the negotiations unless there was agreement by the time of the two-day gathering in the Belgian capital, starting Thursday.

However in a call with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel on Wednesday evening, he said he would “reflect” on the outcome of the summit before making a decision.

Meanwhile, Mrs von der Leyen and Mr Michel again reiterated that while the EU still wanted a deal, it could not be at “any price”.

Following the call a No 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister noted the desirability of a deal, but expressed his disappointment that more progress had not been made over the past two weeks.

Boris Johnson spoke to Ursula von der Leyen ahead of the summit in Brussels (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“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 in the light of his statement of September 7.”

Mrs von der Leyen said they were continuing to work on a deal, but that the “conditions must be right” if there was to be an agreement.

“The EU is working on a deal, but not at any price. Still a lot of work ahead of us,” she tweeted.

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen agreed to “intensify” negotiations in a final push for a wide-ranging agreement covering Britain’s relationship with the EU when the current Brexit transition period ends at the end of the year.

However, the EU side has been resisting efforts by the British side to impose a tight deadline in an attempt to force through an agreement.

Downing Street said the UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost has returned to London and updated Mr Johnson on the “state of play” of the negotiations with his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, which have been continuing this week in Brussels.

Earlier, Number 10 said progress had been made over the last few days – primarily in technical areas – but that differences still remain, namely over fishing rights.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Some progress has been made this week, primarily in technical areas of the negotiations, but there are still differences, with fisheries being the starkest.

“We need to get the substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.

“The Prime Minister’s September 7 statement was very clear about the significance of October 15.

“He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team.

“I cannot prejudge what that decision will be.”

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