Brexit: New momentum needed in trade talks, say UK and EU

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Media captionThe PM says the EU and UK are “not actually that far apart”

UK and EU leaders have said new momentum is needed in negotiations on their future relationship, after high-level talks on Monday.

The PM, who met EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen virtually, said there was a “very good” chance of getting a trade deal by December.

He said he saw no reason why it cannot be “done in July”, after the sides agreed to intensify talks next month.

Mrs von der Leyen said they “agreed to deliver the best deal” for citizens.

The EU also noted the UK’s decision not to extend the transition period, which ends in December.

In a joint statement issued after Monday’s meeting via video conference, the UK and EU “welcomed the constructive discussions on the future relationship that had taken place”.

“The parties agreed nevertheless that new momentum was required,” it said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The high-level meeting was via video link

They have agreed to intensify talks in July, and to find an “early understanding on the principles” underlying any deal.

The UK government has said the talks in July will involve a mix of formal negotiating rounds and smaller group meetings in London and Brussels, if coronavirus guidelines allow.

‘Tiger in the tank’

Mr Johnson said the EU and the UK were “not that far apart” with regards to the future relationship, but he added that “a bit of oomph” was needed in the talks.

Calling on the EU to “put a tiger in the tank”, the prime minister said the chances of getting a trade deal by the end of the year were “very good”, provided both sides focus now and “get on and do it”.

Asked what the cut-off date would be by which the UK government will give business certainty of what they can expect, Mr Johnson said he saw no reason why it cannot be “done in July”.

“I certainly don’t want to see it going on until the Autumn/Winter as I think perhaps in Brussels they would like. I don’t see any point in that so let’s get it done.”

European Council President Charles Michel, who joined Mrs von der Leyen on the call along with European Parliament President David-Maria Sassoli, said a “broad and ambitious agreement” was “in our mutual interest”.

And Mr Sassoli tweeted in Latin that “agreements must be kept”.