UK’s Johnson to go to Brussels to attempt to break Brexit impasse | United Kingdom Information

More than four years after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson helped set the UK’s course out of the European Union, he is directed to EU headquarters to try to finish the job.

Less than a month until Britain’s economic breakout from the EU and with talks on a new trade deal to halt three crucial issues, Johnson and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, agreed on Monday to meet in person in the coming days meet to see if they can find common ground.

Brussels is a dangerous area for the Brexit-backed UK leaders. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, kept coming back to negotiate a Brexit deal only to see it repeatedly rejected by her own parliament, ending her senior career. Johnson is hoping for a quick hop on and off that will keep his reputation and country intact on the road to a free trade deal with his largest economic partner.

Johnson and von der Leyen spoke by phone for the second time in 48 hours on Monday as their negotiators were stuck in stalled trade talks. After the call, they said that “significant disparities” remain in three main issues – fishing rights, rules of fair competition and the management of future disputes – and that “the conditions for an agreement are not in place”.

The two heads of state and government said in a joint statement that they intend to discuss the remaining differences “in a physical meeting in Brussels in the coming days”.

A pedestrian walks past the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on his way to find a way through the impasse in the Brexit talks [File: Francisco Seco/AP]Despite the ongoing impasse, plans for a top-level meeting are seen as a sign that there is still a chance of a deal, despite 10 Downing Street saying the situation is “difficult” and failure is a clear possibility.

No time was given for the face-to-face meeting. The heads of state and government of the 27 EU countries will hold a two-day summit in Brussels from Thursday.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier had no news of a breakthrough early Monday when he briefed the 27 member states’ ambassadors on the chances of an agreement with London before December 31st.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Barnier’s message was “very depressed”.

Penny Mordaunt, a junior secretary for Brexit planning, told lawmakers in the House of Commons that the “level playing field” – competition rules that the UK must agree to in order to gain access to the EU market – was the toughest unsolved problem.

Officials on both sides said there are also big differences in the legal control of a trade agreement and European boats’ access to UK waters.

While the UK left the EU politically on January 31, it will remain in the duty-free internal market and the bloc’s customs union until December 31. Achieving a trade deal by then would ensure that there are no tariffs and trade quotas on goods exported or imported from the EU two sides, although there would still be new costs and red tape.

Both sides would suffer economically from the failure to reach a trade deal, but most economists believe the UK economy would take a bigger blow as Britain does almost half of its trade with the bloc.

EU member states must unanimously support any post-Brexit trade deal, and the deal has yet to be voted on by the European Parliament. These procedures would push any agreement forward by the end of the year.

While both the UK and EU say they want a trade deal, trust and benevolence are strained after months of tough negotiations.

In another complication, Johnson’s government on Monday revived legislation in breach of the legally binding Brexit withdrawal agreement it signed with the EU last year.

The UK government admits that the Single Market Act is contrary to international law and the legislation has been condemned by the EU, US President-elect Joe Biden and numerous UK lawmakers, including many from Johnson’s own Conservative Party.

The House of Lords, the upper chamber of parliament, removed the unlawful clauses from legislation last month, but Johnson’s administration is urging lawmakers to reinstate them.

UK says the bill giving the government the power to override parts of the take-back agreement related to trade with Northern Ireland is required as an “insurance policy” to protect the flow of goods within the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The EU sees this as an evil will that could endanger the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.

On Wednesday, the UK plans to introduce a tax law that will contain more measures in the same direction and would further irritate the EU.

However, the UK government offered the bloc an olive branch on the issue and said it would lift the breach of law clauses if a joint UK-EU committee on Northern Ireland came up with solutions in the coming days. The discussions in the committee, which continued on Monday, were constructive.

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