Brexit news latest – Boris' date with DESTINY as he races to Brussels to save deal over dinner with 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

    'DEAL WOULD KEEP GOOD FLOWING'

    Michael Gove told MPs that the agreement prevents any disruption at the end of the transition period on the movement of chilled meats.

    He said: "This deal would keep goods flowing between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in January, and indeed provide some necessary additional flexibilities.

    "It protects Northern Ireland's supermarket supplies. We heard throughout the year that traders needed time to adapt their systems, that's why we've got a grace period for supermarkets to update their procedures.

    "Our agreement also prevents any disruption at the end of the transition period on the movement of chilled meats. British sausages will continue to make their way to Belfast and Ballymena in the new year."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'THE BREXIT FROG HAS BEEN BOILED'

    Writing in the Evening Standard, George Osbourne declared the "Brexit frog has been boiled".

    He writes: "The Brexit frog has been truly boiled. We’re so focused on the last obstacles to a final deal, that we haven’t noticed how uncomfortable our surroundings have become.

    "Each step Britain has taken in the post referendum world has been in the direction of a hard Brexit. 

    "We now face a rupture with our closest neighbours that only a small minority of a small majority would have supported back in 2016."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    UK WILL BECOME 'MAGNET FOR INVESTMENT'

    Boris Johnson said the UK will become a "magnet for overseas investment", deal or no-deal.

    During PMQs, Sir Keir Starmer said: "The Prime Minister talks about indecision. He is absolutely stuck, that is the truth of it. He is absolutely stuck and dithering between the deal he knows that we need and the compromise he knows his backbenchers won't let him do."

    Mr Johnson replied: "What I can say is that this country will be ready for whether we have a Canadian or an Australian solution, and there will be jobs created in this country, throughout the whole of the UK, not just in spite of Brexit but because of Brexit, because this country is going to become a magnet for overseas investment."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'GOOD DEAL TO BE DONE'

    Boris Johnson has told MPs that "a good deal is there to be done" ahead of talks with Ursula von der Leyen but the EU was currently insisting on terms which no prime minister could accept.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    SMELLS FISHY

    Britain is set to make a "very generous" Brexit compromise in order to seal a deal, Micheal Gove said today, ahead of Boris' dash to Brussels.

    The Cabinet minister said he was hopeful that the pair can "thrash out a potential way through" which will allow talks to restart again after their crunch dinner tonight in Brussels.

    Speaking to Radio 4 he added: "I think there can be scope for compromise but the compromise exists on the way in which European boats can continue to access UK waters."

    But he insisted that the EU must accept that the UK will be an "independent coastal state" and the UK will be "in control of our waters."

    He said the UK is prepared to be "very generous" about the way the changes are phased in – implying that there could be a period of years where EU boats are allowed to fish in our waters.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'BRITAIN WILLING TO MAKE CONCESSIONS'

    Ireland's deputy leader said he believes Boris Johnson would be willing to make concessions to get a post-Brexit trade deal.

    Leo Varadkar told RTE Morning Ireland: "For us to have access to our single market and for us to have free trade with the UK, we need to know that the UK isn't going to undercut us on standards, whether it's workers' rights or health and safety, the environment, product standards, all of those things."

    He added: "Is Boris Johnson willing to make concessions in those areas? I think he probably is.

    "If I know him, and I don't know him that well, but I know him a bit, I think his natural instincts are much closer to the more liberal London mayor that he was than the more conservative Brexiteer."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'AGREEMENT WILL NOT RESOLVE BREXIT ISSUES'

    Ireland's foreign affairs minister has said that if an agreement is reached by the deadline, it will not resolve all Brexit issues.

    Simon Coveney said: "Many of the things we take for granted today because we are a member of the EU, and the UK has been as well, can no longer be taken for granted.

    "All of these areas need separate agreements.

    "What we have at the moment is about 95% of the text agreed on a future trade relationship that deals with all of these areas, the remaining 5% that is not agreed is linked to fair competition (and other areas)."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    IRISH BEEF FEARS

    Ireland's foreign affairs minister has warned of the consequences if the European Union and the UK fail to get a post-Brexit trade deal.

    Simon Coveney told Newstalk: "Trade will probably continue in the short-term because supermarket shelves have to be filled and there are no alternatives to Irish beef in the UK in some cases.

    "Having said that, in the medium term if Irish beef is priced in a way that is linked to significant tariffs, I think the UK will over time find cheaper sources of beef from other parts of the world.

    "That is, of course, the big concern, that our very significant part of the beef market in the UK would be displaced by beef coming from South America or North America, or somewhere else.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'MASSIVE UNCERTAINTY'

    Of Brexit uncertainties, Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said today: "While there are pressures caused by Covid all over the world, no other country is facing the kind of uncertainty we are around the end of the transition period.

    "With businesses still not knowing whether there is going to be a deal, and the exact nature of any deal, it is throwing massive uncertainty into their decision-making."

    He added: "Car production halting, Christmas presents possibly going undelivered, and food supplies being thrown out are terrible for businesses across our country."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    BRUSSELS TALKS: WHAT TO EXPECT

    Leaders of Britain and the European Union will meet Wednesday for a dinner that could pave the way to a post-Brexit trade deal or tip the two sides toward a chaotic economic rupture at the end of the month.

    Early-morning comments from both sides insisting that it was for the other to compromise only highlighted the difficult task ahead for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

    British officials said they hoped political pressure from the top could break the logjam, but room was limited.

    The bloc, however, insists the U.K. needs to move to secure agreement.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    SCHOOL TO CLOSE AMID BREXIT FEARS

    A grammar school is set to close for two days over fears of Brexit traffic chaos after the UK leaves the EU.

    Instead of reopening for the new term, Maidstone Grammar School in Kent will host live virtual lessons for all year groups using Microsoft Teams on Monday January 4 and Tuesday January 5.

    The 16th century all boys secondary is based just a mile away from the busy M20 motorway which could be jammed with lorries if there are delays at the Port of Dover.

    Student's education could be negatively impacted if they or their teachers are stuck in traffic for hours on end, according to headteacher Mark Tomkins.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'EU PREPARED FOR NO DEAL'

    The European Union and Britain could still reach a Brexit trade agreement but the bloc's 27 remaining members are prepared to live with no deal if necessary, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday.

    A wrestle over so-called "level playing field" rules, which would prevent Britain undercutting EU standards on things like labour and environmental standards, is the big issue still to be resolved, Merkel told German lawmakers.

    The German Chancellor told the Bundestag lower house of Parliament: "There is still the chance of an agreement … We are continuing to work on it, but we are also prepared for conditions which we cannot accept."

    She added: "One thing is clear: the integrity of the internal market must be preserved. We must have a level playing field, not just for today but for tomorrow and beyond … Otherwise, unfair competition conditions arise to which we cannot subject our companies."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'I COMPLETELY TRUST BORIS'

    Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a prominent Brexiteer, said he trusts the Prime Minister to stick to his position on protecting UK sovereignty.

    He told the BBC's Today show: "I completely trust him in the sense that here is the man who wrote the manifesto, and the manifesto was clear that the sovereign right of the United Kingdom to make trade deals and, where necessary, to diverge from EU regulations is in the hands of the UK Government."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    CALLS TO CLEAR CONGESTION AT PORTS

    Logistics bosses are calling on the Government to help clear congestion at container ports.

    A spike in imports due to the Covid-19 pandemic and fears of a no-deal Brexit have led to bottlenecks at UK ports.

    In a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, the leaders of organisations such as the UK Major Ports Group, the UK Chamber of Shipping and Logistics UK wrote: "Although we are hopeful that the current peak of port congestion has passed, high volumes remain and could persist for some months, running into the period of the end of the EU transition.

    "Therefore challenges remain. The current situation has arisen in part from imbalances that accumulated over months. Reversing this accumulation is not an overnight task."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'NO GUARANTEES'

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday the European Union and Britain could still reach an agreement on a Brexit trade deal but added that she could not guarantee there would be a breakthrough at an EU summit on Thursday.

    She told the Bundestag lower house of parliament that the two sides still needed to resolve the issue of a level playing field, adding that it was crucial for Britain and the EU to maintain a level playing field for the future.

  • Britta Zeltmann

    COMPROMISE ON FISHING RIGHTS TRANSITION

    Michael Gove today said there could be a compromise on a transition arrangement on fishing rights but the UK could not back down from being an independent coastal state.

    He told Today: "I think there can be scope for compromise but the compromise exists on the way in which European boats can continue to access UK waters.

    "But what is not up for compromise is the principle that the UK will be an independent coastal state and it will be a matter for negotiation between the UK and the EU, with the UK in control of our waters.

    "I think we can be very generous with that, I think we can reach arrangements with European countries that allow a staged process so there can be a degree of certainty so that they can manage that change."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    NON-REGRESSION AGREEMENT

    Michael Gove said the UK wanted a non-regression agreement as part of level-playing field stipulations in a trade deal with the EU.

    He told Today: "The issue of particular contention is that last week the EU negotiators didn't simply want an arrangement whereby we pledge what we call non-regression – which is common in most trade treaties, which means you maintain the standards at the point of entry – they actually wanted an arrangement that meant if the EU adopted new laws, that the UK would have to (follow them) or the EU would retaliate.

    "We can accept the non-regression principles, which are common to free trade agreements, which indeed Canada entered into and that's the point we've always made – we want an arrangement similar to the one Canada has with the European Union."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    'WE'VE BEEN CLEAR THROUGHOUT'

    Of upcoming talks in Brussels, Michael Gove told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme: "We've been clear throughout – the Prime Minister's been admirably clear – about what the United Kingdom needs as a sovereign independent country.

    "And I think President von der Leyen will want to ensure that all EU member states recognise that a deal is in everyone's interest and that will require a degree of movement for some on the EU side."

  • Britta Zeltmann

    BRUSSELS AN 'OPPORTUNITY TO THRASH OUT AGREEMENT'

    The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, said the dinner between the Prime Minister and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen offered an opportunity to "thrash out" an agreement.

    Asked whether European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier was right to warn that no deal looked more likely than a deal, Mr Gove told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "No, I don't think it is right to say that yet.

    "I think that tonight there is an opportunity for the Prime Minister and Ursula von der Leyen, and they have a good relationship, to thrash out a potential way through."

  • 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.

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