Brexit latest news: Boris Johnson gives EU three months to make deal – live updates
Boris Johnson has reportedly given the EU until September to confirm a trade deal.
Face-to-face talks on a deal between the EU and the UK have now begun in Brussels, after both sides pledged to "intensify" discussions.
This is the first time the UK's chief negotiator, David Frost, and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, have met face-to-face since talks started in March.
Negotiations took place virtually during the coronavirus pandemic.
Boris Johnson has said a deal could even be reached this month with "new momentum".
He spoke with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen earlier this month.
This latest round of talks will continue all week, with Mr Frost and Mr Barnier expected to meet this Friday.
Follow our Brexit live blog below for all the latest updates…
'ECONOMY WILL RECOVER VERY, VERY WELL INDEED'
Despite today's grim news about the UK's economy, detailed in the blog post below, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he believes Britain will recover “very, very well indeed”.
During an interview with Times Radio yesterday morning, he said the UK will face some “bumpy times” – but that the country will get through the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic “very, very well indeed”.
He said: “I certainly think people can feel instinctively that it's going to be tough to come through this.
“We've seen a big fall in our GDP and everybody understands as we come out of it there are going to be some bumpy times, but the UK is an amazingly dynamic, resilient economy and we're going to come through it very, very well indeed.”
While politicians discuss the future of the UK's involvement in Europe this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing news that the economy has dropped by 2.2 per cent in the first three months of this year.
It's the joint-largest fall since 1979 – and the drop is worse than had been predicted.
Here's the full story.
WHO IS SIR MARK SEDWILL?
Hanging over all the talks set to happen in the coming weeks is the news that the UK's chief negotiator David Frost will take Sir Mark Sedwill's job as the country's top civil servant.
Sir Mark, a 54-year-old former diplomat was appointed to the role in 2018, at a time when he was already the national security adviser.
Critics including former chancellor George Osborne questioned the sustainability of the grammar school and Oxford-educated civil servant handling the two roles.
And last Sunday, Sir Mark announced he will stand down from his role as Cabinet Secretary, National Security Adviser and head of the Civil Service in September.
Dubbed the ultimate “securocrat”, Sir Mark became the civil service's highest-ranking official after running the Home Office between 2013 and 2017.
He was a trusted lieutenant of Theresa May when she was PM.
Sir Mark has also been at the centre of Brexit preparations in Whitehall.
In April 2019, the Daily Mail claimed to have gained a copy of a 14-page letter the Cabinet Secretary sent to ministers warning them of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
Here's a full explainer.
WHAT ARE OFFICIALS DISCUSSING DURING THE TALKS?
This week is just the first of six rounds of talks, each of which will take a week.
There'll be five between now and the end of July, with the final round scheduled for August 17.
Top items on the agenda include:
- Trade in goods
- Trade in services
- Criminal law and judicial cooperation
- Energy and transport
- Participation in EU programmes like science research
- Continued mobility of social benefits for EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU
THE BREX FACTOR
David Frost’s promotion to be the PM’s top security adviser has raised hopes of a swift Brexit deal.
Brussels sources called it “encouraging” that Mr Frost will stay on as Britain’s chief negotiator until talks end.
Eurocrats think he won’t want discussions to end in failure at the same time as he takes on the key role overseeing terror threats.
A diplomatic source told The Sun: “Frost must now more than ever be a man in a hurry.
“Failure would be a very poor look.”
Boris Johnson appointed Mr Frost to take over as National Security Adviser from top civil servant Sir Mark Sedwill.
He will take up the job in late August but insists the trade talks remain his “top single priority”.
Two senior Tory MPs are trying to force the Government to automatically grant EU children in case settled status in the UK once freedom of movement ends.
Former minister Tim Loughton is leading a cross-party effort to “avoid the risk of another Windrush scandal” with an amendment to legislation that could be debated today.
Joined by Tory former cabinet member Andrew Mitchell and senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper, it hopes to give the children automatic and indefinite leave to remain under the EU settlement scheme.
FARMERS WIN PROTECTION IN BREXIT TRADE TALKS
The Government has awarded protection to farmers amid fears they could be undercut as trade deals are hashed out in Brussels.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said free trade agreements with countries including the US “must be fair and reciprocal”.
She added Britain will maintain EU bans on goods including chlorinated chicken amid fears farmers could be hurt by cheaper imports.
Ms Truss continued the commission will ensure farmers “do not face unfair competition and that their high animal welfare and production standards are not undermined”.
WHAT ARE THE AIMS OF FRESH BREXIT TALKS?
- Talks are aimed at “intensifying” Brexit process
- No 10 wants to see trade deal wrapped up by September
- Smaller groups to focus on and iron out sticking points, including fisheries and state aid
- Face-to-face talks will facilitate better communication and more “informal chats” to help get Brexit done
PM’S SPOKESMAN SAYS TALKS SHOULD BE ‘DONE BY AUTUMN’
Boris Johnson’s spokesman has said Brexit negotiations need to end “by the autumn”.
He added the role of David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator, will “cease to exist” later this year..
He said Mr Frost’s role will be dissolved once talks end.
He said: “We have been clear on a number of occasions that these talks shouldn't drag and that want and need them to concluded by the autumn.
“He is taking up his role around the end of August. There will be a short transition period so if there is a small overlap with the Brexit negotiations that is possible.”
BREXIT TALKS DEADLINE THOUGHT TO BE SEPTEMBER
The Government has hinted the end of September will be the deadline for Brexit trade talks.
Fresh discussion kicked off today.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the UK had been “very clear” with the EU that the talks needed to be completed sooner rather than later.
TORY MP URGES EU TO LISTEN TO JOHNSON’S DEMANDS
Brexiteer Mark Francios has urged Michel Barnier to listen to Boris Johnson’s demands amid today’s fresh talks.
He wrote: “I refer you to the Conservative Party’s 2019 Manifesto – which I and all my colleagues stood on late last year – which made clear to the British people that we would have ‘a new relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation, not on the EU’s Treaties or EU laws’”.
“In the spirit of honesty between friends,” he added, “there can be no way that the European Court of Justice can be allowed to have any role in the UK’s national life after the end of this year.”
US TRADE EXPERTS SAYS EU IS ‘EXAGGERATING’ IN BREXIT TALKS
A US trade expert has claimed the EU is “exaggerating” fears in order to keep Britain tethered to its regulations, according to a US trade expert.
In a recent podcast by the CATO institute, US trade expert Simon Lester said: “The EU is expressing concerns about the UK deregulating or offering new subsidies in a way that gives them an unfair advantage and they want rules to deal with that.
“I think the Europeans are exaggerating those fears a bit.
“The problem in the negotiations seems to be that the way the Europeans are presenting it is really putting the Brits off.
“They are reaching badly to this, so each side is going through this routine of political attacks.
“It sets a bad tone and it leads to distrust.”
‘EU SHOW FLEXIBILITY ON FISHERIES’
The EU have shown some flexibility on the issue of fisheries, EuroNews reports.
Brexit was hailed across fishing communities as a “golden opportunity” to re-energise British fishermen thanks to the expiration of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) back in December.
“Some of the EU's unrealistic positions will have to change if we are to move forward,” the UK's chief negotiator David Frost said in a tweet posted last week. “UK sovereignty, over our laws, our courts, or our fishing waters, is of course not up for discussion. Equally we do not seek anything which would undermine the integrity of the EU's single market.”
EU ‘CALM AND UNITED’ AMID FRESH BREXIT TALKS
Michel Barnier has said the EU is “calm and united” as Brexit talks resume.
He added they would “make the most” of the intensified process, according to London Glossy.
‘PLAN IS TO INTENSIFY AND SPEED UP NEGOTIATIONS’
The new Brexit talks are underway in a bid to “speed up and intensify negotiations,” according to The Economist Espresso.
The Economist Espresso is a morning briefing from the editors of The Economist.
The post adds: “The risk of there being no trade deal in place on January 1st, meaning reverting to normal World Trade Organisation rules, remains high.”
HOW DAVID FROST’S NEW ROLE AFFECTS BREXIT TALKS.
Sir Mark Sedwilll announced last night he will be stepping down from his role as Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser, with David Frost picking up the latter role.
The prime minister’s spokesman said Frost would not be replaced as chief Brexit negotiator, however.
The spokesman added Mr Frost will continue in his role alongside theNational Security Adviser job.
But with the new job starting in September, the Brexit negotiator is cutting it fine – and could end up juggling both roles.
But No 10 backed Mr Frost, calling him a “serious diplomat, policy thinker and negotiator”.
POUND DOWN AS ‘INTENSIVE PHASE’ OF TALKS BEGIN
The British pound has dropped in value as fresh Brexit talks began today, with David Frost and Michel Barnier meeting face-to-face for the first time.
GBP/EUR was down by 80 pips, following a -0.56 per centfall in the pound-euro exchange rate last week.
The currency also saw fresh three-month lows, owing to concerns about the state of Brexit negotiations.
And the pound-euro exchange rate continues to fall, after falling for seven of the past eight weeks.
BREXITEERS' BID TO PILE PRESSURE ON BRUSSELS
Tory Brexiteers have sought to increase pressure on Brussels by indicating their support for Mr Frost and demanding that Mr Barnier drops the EU's “unreasonable demands”.
A letter to Mr Barnier from European Research Group (ERG) chairman Mark Francois said there could be “no way” for the European Court of Justice to have any role in the UK after this year and the UK must also have “full control” of fishing waters.
The ERG told Mr Barnier: “If you and your team are willing to accept that the United Kingdom will be a fully independent country at the end of this year, responsible for its own destiny but willing to trade equitably with its neighbours, I can see no reason why we won't be able to ratify a free trade deal with time to spare.”
The current transition period expires at the end of the year, meaning new arrangements will need to be in place by January 1 or the UK will follow World Trade Organisation rules for its relationship with the EU.
EU OFFICIAL HITS OUT AT FROST APPOINTMENT
European Union diplomats have criticised the UK’s chief negotiator for accepting a new job as National Security Adviser before the Brexit trade deal was finished, the Telegraph reports.
“Barnier didn’t run for commission president to deliver Brexit, but doing that isn’t enough for Frost apparently,” one EU diplomat told the paper.
“Is there such a shortage of people in the UK that they had to pick the chief negotiator?”
SOCIAL DISTANCING IN PLACE FOR TALKS
Negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted this picture as talks get under way face-to-face for the first time since the pandemic began.
Participants are sitting well away from each other – but no one is wearing a mask.
OFFICIALS PLEDGE TO PROTECT UK FOOD STANDARDS
Farming leaders have welcomed the Government's pledge to set up an independent trade and agriculture commission amid calls to protect UK food standards.
The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has been calling for an independent commission which reviews trade policy and makes sure that all food imports are held to the same standards expected of British farmers.
The organisation's call comes amid ongoing fears that post-Brexit trade deals could undermine the UK's food, animal welfare and environmental standards.
Organisations from the NFU to conservation groups have warned against allowing imports of food that would be illegal to produce here, with fears that farmers and standards could be undermined by products such as chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef.
PM ASKED ABOUT 'NEGATIVE BRIEFING'
Boris Johnson was asked about the negative briefing against Sir Mark Sedwill this morning – which we've detailed in the previous post.
In his Times Radio interview, the PM said: “Look, I try not to read too much of the negative briefing.
“There’s an awful lot of stuff that comes out in the papers to which … I wouldn’t automatically attach the utmost credence.”
But when he was asked directly to confirm that the negative briefing did not come directly from his office, Johnson said he didn't know exactly which briefing the presenter was referring to.
If you're looking for more information about Sir Mark and what's happening, you'll find a full explainer here.
EX CIVIL SERVICE CHIEF SAYS SIR MARK IS VICTIM OF 'COWARDLY' BRIEFINGS
In an article for the Guardian, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, says outgoing Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill and other senior civil servants have been the victims of “cowardly” hostile briefings condoned by the Prime Minister.
He said: “For those who watch these things, the departure of Sir Mark Sedwill as cabinet secretary and chief security adviser followed a now familiar and depressing pattern.
“Weeks of anonymous hostile briefing to the newspapers, suggesting a rift between the country’s most senior civil servant and No10 staff over the handling of coronavirus, had risen to a crescendo, ending with a hastily arranged statement.”
And he's labelled “anonymous briefings to the media” as “cowardly, unfair and undermining”.
TIMETABLE FOR TALKS REVEALED
This week is one of six rounds of week-long talks.
There'll be five between now and the end of July, with the final round scheduled for August 17.
On the agenda are governance, fisheries, level playing field, trade in goods, trade in services, criminal law and judicial cooperation, energy and transport, participation in EU programmes such as science research, and continued mobility of social benefits for EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in the EU.
WHAT ARE THE FOUR BIG ISSUES UNDER DISCUSSION?
Talks between the EU and the UK began today with a two-hour, face-to-face meeting between David Frost, the chief UK negotiator, and the EU’s Michel Barnier.
The big differences between the two are fisheries, fair competition in trade, governance and security.
Despite that, there's still hope of a deal after resumed meetings, which – it is hoped – will allow for more nuanced discussions.
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