Today's EU summit is make-or-break point for Brexit talks

A press conference is expected tonight in Brussels on the negotiations' progress - the UK will then reflect on whether to continue or not

15 October 2020
The European Council meets in the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels
By Liv Rowland

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated he will decide on whether to pursue the Brexit negotiations or accept a ‘no-deal’ scenario, depending on what EU leaders say at a two-day summit that starts today.

Spokesmen for the European Council and for the European Commission, which leads the negotiations on the EU side, confirmed to The Connexion this morning that the Brexit talks are on the leaders’ agenda at the European Council summit today.

A press conference on today’s talks will be held either just before or after dinner, scheduled for 19:30, the European Council spokesman said. It is not yet clear if talks on Brexit may continue tomorrow or will be wrapped up today.

Following a telephone call between Mr Johnson, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, a Downing Street spokesperson said that they had discussed the “state of play of the negotiations”, adding: “The prime minister noted the desirability of a deal, but expressed his disappointment that more progress had not been made over the past two weeks.

“The prime minister said that he looked forward to hearing the outcome of the European Council and would reflect before setting out the UK’s next steps in the light of his statement of September 7.”

In that statement Mr Johnson had said that there needed to be an agreement by the time of the Council on October 15 if a deal  was to be in force by the end of the year, saying “there is no sense in thinking about timelines that go beyond that point”.

He added: “If we can’t agree before then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us and we should accept that and move on.”

The date has come and a deal is not yet finalised but it is understood that Mr Johnson is hoping at least for positive indications that the EU believes a deal is now close, making a final push worthwhile.

Yesterday, France’s foreign affairs minister suggested that the EU is now prepared for talks to go on as late as the middle of next month, and EU negotiator Michel Barnier stated on Tuesday that “the EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks”.

However, if a treaty is to be in place by January 1 time is running out for drafting, translation and ratification by both the EU’s Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

During the call with Mr Johnson, Ms Van der Leyen reportedly told him that there was “still a lot of work ahead of us” and that Brussels wants a deal, but “not at any price”.

The current talks include a wide range of matters, including trading rules, police and judicial cooperation, financial services, and social security coordination, however they do not include the rights of existing expatriates which were covered by the Withdrawal Agreement treaty at the start of the year.

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