British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold talks with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Wednesday evening, in a last-ditch attempt to break the deadlock in negotiations on post-Brexit trade relations, just three weeks before the year-end deadline.
“I look forward to welcoming UK Prime Minister @BorisJohnson tomorrow evening. We will continue our discussion on the Partnership Agreement,” von der Leyen said on Twitter on Tuesday evening.
I look forward to welcoming UK Prime Minister @BorisJohnson tomorrow evening.
We will continue our discussion on the Partnership Agreement.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 8, 2020
Johnson and von der Leyen talked on the phone twice in the past three days, but have so far failed to break the deadlock.
Johnson said on Tuesday that Britain wants a deal but is also ready to walk away without a deal.
“We’re always hopeful but you know there may come a moment when we have to acknowledge that it’s time to draw stumps and that’s just the way it is,” Johnson told reporters, using a cricketing term for the end of play.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, suggested that EU member states are united behind the negotiating team’s hard-line stance.
“Full unity. We will never sacrifice our future for the present. Access to our market comes with conditions,” he wrote on Twitter after briefing member states on the state of the talks.
Micheál Martin, the prime minister of Ireland, an EU member state, said the EU would have to discuss contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit if there is no breakthrough in the next two days.
“Unfortunately we are facing the prospect of a no-deal Brexit if something doesn’t break that in the next day or two,” Martin told parliament in Dublin.
But Tuesday did see a positive development. After the two sides reached a new agreement on the thorny issue of Northern Ireland, Britain agreed to drop contentious clauses from its Internal Market Bill, which, if kept, would have breached the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said the agreement had removed “one big obstacle” from the trade talks, and would create “positive momentum” for the negotiators.
Ireland’s foreign minister Simon Coveney also welcomed the “positive news” and said he hoped “this may also provide some of the positive momentum necessary to instil confidence and trust and allow progress in the wider context of the future relationship negotiations.”
Reuters contributed to this report.