Brexit news latest – CRUNCH dinner date could save UK-EU deal as Boris Johnson races to Brussels to meet Von Der Leyen

BORIS Johnson will travel to Belgium today for last-ditch Brexit talks with EU commission chief Ursula Von Der Leyen.

Both Number 10 and the EU Commission confirmed the news yesterday evening, explaining that a crunch dinner was being held to discuss the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

Boris and Von Der Leyen will discuss Brexit over dinner this evening – a conversation that could either salvage hopes of a post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal from the ashes, or force Britain to crash out of the EU without a deal.

But after the PM and the EU chief held a tense phone call on Monday – their second in 48 hours – where both sides admitted talks had reached "the end of the road", hopes of a sudden in-person consensus seem highly unlikely.

Follow our Brexit live blog for all the latest news and updates…

  • Britta Zeltmann

    HOPES FOR 'FURTHER POLITICAL MOMENTUM'

    Mr Gove told BBC Breakfast he hopes Prime Minister Boris Johnson's dinner with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will create "further political momentum" after he reached an agreement on border checks and trading rules for Northern Ireland with his counterpart on the UK-EU joint committee on Wednesday.

    "I'm hopeful that the Prime Minister will be able to lay out, over the course of dinner, where movement is required," he said.

    "The conversation between the Prime Minister and the president tonight, I hope, will create further political momentum, which will make sure that we do reach an agreement."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    POST-BREXIT TRADE DEAL COULD BE 'VERY DIFFICULT'

    Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has said a post-Brexit trade deal will be "very difficult" without movement from the EU.

    Asked for a percentage of how optimistic he was, Mr Gove told Times Radio: "I think it's so close to December 31 that I'll move away from setting percentages and instead what I'll be doing is hoping that on the EU side we get the movement that we need in order to seal the deal that I know that we want to."

    He added: "Unless we see some movement on the EU side, then it will be very difficult."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'FAILED AGREEMENT COULD HAVE LED TO TARIFFS'

    Mr Gove said failure to have reached an agreement at the joint committee could have led to tariffs on goods being shipped to Northern Ireland and possible "restrictions" on the food found on supermarket shelves.

    He denied that Boris Johnson, through the agreement, had conceded to a border down the Irish Sea.

    "I don't think there is a border in the Irish Sea," said Mr Gove.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    GOVE ON NORTHERN IRELAND PROTOCOL

    Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the agreement by the UK-EU joint committee on the Northern Ireland Protocol meant there was a "smoother glide path" towards a potential trade deal with Brussels.

    He told Sky News: "People wanted to make sure that, first of all, there was no border infrastructure on the Northern Ireland border, but that also that Northern Ireland can be a secure part of the United Kingdom.

    "We've agreed that. As a result, some of the measures we were putting forward, which some in Europe had criticised, we no longer need to introduce and that means that there is a smoother glide path towards a possible deal."

  • Christy Cooney

    BREXIT 'BIGGEST ACT OF PROTECTIONISM IN UK HISTORY', SAYS OSBORNE

    Brexit has become the "biggest act of protectionism" in the UK's history, former chancellor George Osborne has said.

    It comes with trade negotiations at an apparent stalemate and fears mounting that the UK will leave the EU at the end of the year without a new deal in place.

    Writing in the Evening Standard, Osborne said: "We… face a rupture with our closest neighbours that only a small minority of a small majority would have supported back in 2016.

    "Like a frog, if we had been thrown straight into the hot water back then, we would have jumped out — or perhaps never jumped in.

    "But slowly… we’ve reached a world where January 1, 2021 will mark the largest act of protectionism in our history."

  • Christy Cooney

    PM SET TO FLY TO BRUSSELS

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to fly to Brussels to day for last-ditch talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

    The pair will hold talks over a dinner as part of attempts to agree a trade deal before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.

    Current sticking points in negotiations include fishing rights and the rules governing state aid.

    The prime minister will face MPs at Prime Minister's Questions before travelling to Belgium.

  • Ben Hill

    HOME GRILL

    Sir Keir Starmer will grill Boris Johnson from home as he takes part in Prime Minister's questions remotely while isolating after a member of his office staff contracted coronavirus.

    The Labour leader will appear on screens in the Commons on Wednesday, weeks after the first virtual PMQs took place while Mr Johnson self-isolated.

    This time, the Prime Minister will attend in person before flying to Brussels for dinner with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen to try to make a breakthrough on post-Brexit trade negotiations.

    Sir Keir's 14 days indoors, which is expected to end on Tuesday, is his second period of isolation.

  • Ben Hill

    TRUSS ON TARIFFS

    The current tariffs imposed by the EU will roll over once the UK leaves the single market and customs union on January 1 but the Department for International Trade intends to tailor them to British interests.

    International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: "As an independent trading nation once again, we finally have the ability to shape these tariffs to our interests and our economy, and to stand up for UK business.

    "Ultimately, we want to de-escalate the conflict and come to a negotiated settlement so we can deepen our trading relationship with the US and draw a line under all this.

    "We are protecting our steel industry against illegal and unfair tariffs – and will continue to do so – but are also showing the US we are serious about ending a dispute that benefits neither country."

    Scotch Whisky Association chief executive Karen Betts said: "This is a very encouraging step by the UK government and we welcome it.

  • Ben Hill

    NI BREXIT AGREEMENT

    Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster said: "For us the important issue on all of these matters is that we have unfettered access from Northern Ireland into Great Britain, but also that trade from Great Britain into Northern Ireland can trade freely as well, so we await to see what has happened in relation to those matters."

    It follows progress in talks led by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Maros Sefcovic from the European Commission.

    They co-chair the EU-UK Joint Committee, which oversees the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland Protocol.

    In a joint statement, the UK and EU said "an agreement in principle" had been reached on all issues.

  • Ben Hill

    NORTHERN IRELAND AGREEMENT

    Agreement has been reached on how to implement Northern Ireland aspects of Brexit involving borders and trade.

    The British Government confirmed it will withdraw controversial measures which could have seen the divorce deal torn up and the UK break international law.

    The agreement covers issues like border checks on animal and plant products, the supply of medicines and deliveries of chilled meats and other food products to supermarkets.

    There was also "clarification" on the application of rules on state subsidies.

  • Ben Hill

    TARIFF TALK

    The UK will drop tariffs imposed on US goods as part of an effort to resolve a transatlantic trade dispute over aerospace subsidies.

    Donald Trump's administration hit the European Union with tariffs on £5.6 billion worth of goods in retaliation for state support given to Airbus, with products including Scotch whisky badly affected by the measures.

    The EU responded with tariffs on £3 billion of US goods over subsidies given to Boeing but the UK will suspend those measures from January 1 – presenting it as an olive branch to the US.

    The UK views a trade deal with the US as one of the major prizes on offer as a result of Brexit.

  • Ben Hill

    CRUNCH TIME

    Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said that unless there was a breakthrough "in the next day or two", EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday and Friday would have to discuss contingency plans for the economic disruption a rupture with no trade accord would bring.

    "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.

    Johnson will meet Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU's executive European Commission, for dinner in Brussels on Wednesday to try and close gaps their negotiators have struggled with for months.

    But the language on both sides has hardened, and both have called on the other to compromise ahead of a meeting that is widely seen as a last throw of the dice.

  • Ben Hill

    NEGOTIATION HOPES

    Downing Street hopes that the dinner between Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen could pave the way for negotiations between Lord Frost and his Brussels counterpart Michel Barnier to resume.

    A UK Government source said: "It's clear that some political impetus will be required for the talks to make any more progress.

    "If we can make progress at a political level, it may allow Lord Frost and his team to resume negotiations over the coming days.

    "But we must be realistic that an agreement may not be possible as we will not compromise on reclaiming UK sovereignty."

  • Ben Hill

    DINNER DEAL

    The leaders of Britain and the European Commission will make a last-minute push for a post-Brexit U.K.-EU trade deal over dinner on Wednesday, with both sides warning that the chance of reaching agreement by a year-end deadline is slipping away.

    With just over three weeks until an economic rupture that threatens upheaval for businesses on both sides of the English Channel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that she looked forward to welcoming Boris Johnson to Brussels on Wednesday evening.

    Mr Johnson's office confirmed the two leaders would hold a dinner meeting to continue discussions on the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU."

  • Ben Hill

    POUND IMPACTS

    The British pound erased earlier losses and briefly popped into positive territory in a volatile trading session on Tuesday after Britain said it had clinched a deal with the European Union over how to manage the Ireland-Northern Ireland border.

    Senior minister Michael Gove said Britain would drop clauses in draft domestic legislation that breach the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement after reaching an "agreement in principle" with the EU over a sticky negotiating point.

    The deal is separate to broader trade talks, but removes what had been a major point of contention between Britain and the EU. Brussels had warned that no wider trade agreement would be possible if London went through with its threat to unpick parts of the exit treaty.

    But the pound couldn't hold on to gains and fell back as trade talks continued.

  • Ben Hill

    BORIS’S WARNING

    The PM warned he was already at the “limit” on what he could accept as a Brexit deal and could yet “draw stumps’ if there is no progress on Wednesday night.

    “Our friends have just got to understand the UK has left the EU in order to be able to exercise democratic control over the way we do things,” he added.

    “There is also the issue of fisheries where we are still a long way apart still. But hope springs eternal, I will do my best to sort it out if we can.”

    Hopes of a breakthrough were bolstered by the UK finally agreeing to drop a threat to tear up last year’s divorce deal in a row over Northern Ireland.

    Both sides backed down on a bizarre row over blocking imports and exports of cold meat between Ireland and Northern Ireland dubbed the “banger war”.

  • Ben Hill

    BREXIT REVENGE

    The Justice Secretary has labelled himself a "constitutional plumber" as he looked to play down speculation that a review into the UK's democratic institutions could be used to settle past Brexit scores.

    Robert Buckland said a commission looking into the country's constitutional set-up would "let the heat out" after tensions arose during last year's Brexit clash between Downing Street and the top judges in the land.

    The Conservative Party manifesto at the last election pledged to set up a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission, causing some to fear it could be used by Number 10 for revenge in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that the Prime Minister had unlawfully suspended parliament.

    But Cabinet minister Mr Buckland has insisted the "system is fundamentally sound" and that he was not in favour of "revolution", telling MPs "incrementalism has a lot to commend itself".

  • Ben Hill

    BORIS TO BELGIUM

    Boris Johnson is to travel to Brussels tomorrow for last-ditch Brexit talks with EU commission chief Ursula Von Der Leyen.

    Number 10 has just announced: "‘The PM will travel to Brussels tomorrow for dinner with VDL to continue discussions on the future relationship between the UK and the EU."

    "I look forward to welcoming UK Prime Minister @BorisJohnson tomorrow evening," tweeted Von Der Leyen this evening

    Earlier ministers confirmed they had agreed a fresh pact over the border – and promised they would scrap controversial parts of their own internal markets bill which would overwrite international laws.

  • Ben Hill

    GOVE'S HOPES

    Senior British minister Michael Gove said on Tuesday he hoped the European Union would move in Brexit trade talks when Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets EU leaders this week, allowing a deal to be struck.

    "The Prime Minister is obviously going to Brussels in the next few days and we hope that there will be movement on the EU side," Mr Gove said, adding the principles of British sovereignty had to be respected.

    "I hope that the EU will recognise that. A deal is in all of our interests, but it can't be a deal at any price."

    Credit: Getty Images – Getty
  • Ben Hill

    CAR PRICE HIKE

    Car prices could soar and production levels plummet if tariffs are imposed in the absence of a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU, MPs have been told.

    Delays at ports could cost the motor industry £50,000 a minute, the Commons Business Committee heard.

    Lloyd Mulkerrins, of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, warned that UK production could fall to 800,000 units a year if tariffs were imposed, meaning prices would rise.

    In recent years the UK has been producing between 1.3 million and 1.6 million vehicles a year, Mr Mulkerrins said.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    BARNIER: 'NO DEAL SPLIT LIKELY'

    European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said today that he believed a 'no-deal' split in ties with Britain at the end of the year is now more likely than agreement on a trade pact, sources in the bloc said.

    A diplomat and an official in Brussels, speaking anonymously, said Barnier made the remark at a meeting with the 27 national European affairs ministers and added that it was time for the bloc to update its no-deal contingency plans. 

  • Britta Zeltmann

    NORTHERN IRELAND AWAITS 'AGREEMENT IN PRINCIPLE' DETAIL

    Northern Ireland's First Minister has said she awaits the detail of the "agreement in principle" that has been reached between the UK and EU on aspects of Brexit pertaining to the region.

    Arlene Foster said she spoke with Michael Gove earlier before it was announced.

    "We await to see the detail. For us the important issue on all of these matters is that we have unfettered access from Northern Ireland into Great Britain, but also that trade from Great Britain into Northern Ireland can trade freely as well, so we await to see what has happened in relation to those matters," she told reporters in Enniskillen on Tuesday.

    "I understand that Michael Gove will make a statement to Parliament tomorrow, I very much hope that the detail will become very clear then."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    FOOD IMPORTS FACE UNCERTAINTY

    Food imports from the EU could face disruption after the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the month, MPs have heard.

    The head of the Food and Drink Federation told the Commons Business Committee there was "no absolute certainty" about the situation.

    Ian Wright said: "We can't be absolutely certain about the movement of food from EU to UK from January 1 for two reasons, one is the uncertainty caused by the new imposition… of checks at the border, the other is the question of tariffs.

    "And the problem with tariffs is that we don't know what they will be, we don't know that they will be imposed, with 14 (working) days to go."

    Mr Wright added: "We have no clue as to what's going to happen, whether we do or don't face tariffs."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    TAXATION BILL TO PLAY IMPORTANT PART IN POST-BREXIT PREPARATIONS

    The Taxation (Post-Transition Period) Bill will play an important part in post-Brexit preparations, a Treasury minister has said.

    Opening the debate on the ways and means motion related to the Bill, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said: "This Bill will take forward important changes to our tax system to support the smooth continuation of business across the UK.

    "In particular, it will ensure that we meet our commitment to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland in relation to the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol and it would help to uphold our pledge to protect the UK's internal market by ensuring that Northern Ireland goods have unfettered access to Great Britain.

    "To that end, this Bill will set out a new framework for the UK's customs, VAT and excise systems following the end of the transition period so that there are clear rules in place for goods movements."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'WE ARE STILL VERY FAR APART'

    European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the EU would make sure Boris Johnson's Government followed up its promise to withdraw the proposals to break international law in the UK Internal Market Bill.

    "We will continue to follow this closely and make sure the contentious provisions are effectively withdrawn," he told reporters.

    At a news conference, Mr Sefcovic said he hoped the agreement on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement could create "positive momentum" in the trade talks.

    "We are still very far apart and we are not hiding this from anyone," he said.

    But he added: "Clearly we created positive momentum, we removed one big obstacle from the way and I hope that we will see positive results also coming from these very complex negotiations, even though we are fully aware how complicated and demanding this process is."

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