Brexit: Ursula von der Leyen calls for ‘fairness’ from UK
Speaking to reporters as she arrived in the Belgian capital on Thursday, the European Commission President said Brexit talks were yet to show “balanced fairness” from the UK side. She warned Boris Johnson must abide to the conditions imposed by Brussels in order for the UK to have access to the EU single market. She said: “I had a very long conversation yesterday night with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“It was a good conversation but it is difficult.
“We are willing to grant access to the single market to our British friends, it’s the largest single market in the world.
“But the conditions have to be fair.
“They have to be fair for our workers and for our companies and this balance of fairness has not been achieved so far.
“Our negotiators are still working and we will take a decision on Sunday.”
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Also speaking to reporters in Brussels, European Council President Charles Michel said: “Brexit is not going to be the most important point of the summit.
“We will have the opportunity to have a brief report from the European Commission. Negotiations are still ongoing, we have maintained a clear mandate on the basis of which the negotiator represents the interests of the union.
“You know economic fair-play, governance, the issue of respecting the withdrawal agreement and the question of fisheries are essential.
“We want to continue negotiating but we also want to continue defending the European interests.”
Mrs von der Leyen held crunch talks over dinner in Brussels on Wednesday aimed at breaking the deadlock, but Downing Street warned afterwards that “very large gaps” remained.
The pair agreed that a decision on the future of the negotiations will be taken by the end of the weekend.
Brexit: UK has ‘behaved flexibly’ says Dominic Raab
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC on Thursday that, while he could not rule out a further extension in the talks process, it is important to have “finality”.
He said: “I think it’s unlikely but I can’t categorically exclude it.”
The Cabinet minister added that there has not been “enough pragmatism and flexibility on the EU side” and called for “substantial movement” from the bloc in order to seal a deal before the weekend is out.
“I don’t think we can keep going on at that pace without having some progress and some flexibility,” he told the BBC.
“Particularly from the UK side, we look at the differences on fairly key points of principle – fairly narrow in scope, we are talking about fisheries, level playing field commitments, the EU’s attempt to lock us in to their rules – we need to see substantial movement.”
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UK chief negotiator Lord Frost and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, will reconvene in Brussels on Thursday to begin their final push to salvage what has been almost a year of wrangling over a trade deal.
After the leaders’ three-hour dinner, a Number 10 source said it was unclear whether the divide between Brussels and the UK could be bridged.
“The PM does not want to leave any route to a possible deal untested,” said the source, as negotiators were given a fresh mandate to thrash out a deal before transitional trading arrangements end on December 31.
Mrs von der Leyen called the conversation with Mr Johnson “lively and interesting” but stressed their positions remained “far apart”.
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