UK’s chief Brexit negotiator urges Boris Johnson not to quit summit as no-deal looms

Lord David Frost tells PM that last-minute agreements on fishing rights and security are possible

Lord David Frost at the European Commission in Brussels
Lord David Frost at the European Commission in Brussels 
(Image credit: Olga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator has urged Boris Johnson not to walk out of EU trade talks if the two sides fail to meet the prime minister’s self-imposed deadline of agreeing a deal by the end of today.

According to The Times, a source close to the talks says that “Frost advised Mr Johnson that a deal with the EU was not impossible, although time was tight to agree 500 pages of legal text this month”.

Frost “told Downing Street both sides would need to work hard, with a shift to daily talks, but that a deal could be reached in time”, the newspaper reports.

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Disputes over security and fishing rights remain the two biggest obstacles, with Johnson upping the ante last month by warning that if no breakthrough were achieved at today’s summit in Brussels, the UK would “move on” and accept that a deal cannot be struck.

Hopes remain low after the PM last night held a conference call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel. In a statement following the call, Johnson’s spokesperson said: “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.”

Meanwhile, Von der Leyen tweeted that “the EU is working on a deal, but not at any price. Conditions must be right.”

Johnson is now expected to postpone his decision on whether to quit the Brexit trade negotiations until after the European Council summit ends on Friday.

A British official told The Times that “there are still differences, with fisheries being the starkest”, adding that Johnson was “very clear about the significance” of the summit.

“We need to get substance settled, and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult,” the official added.

As a no-deal Brexit looms, The Guardian argues in an editorial that “raw self-interest is rarely far from the prime minister’s attention”, increasing the likelihood he will “steer hard for compromise and land the deal”.

But if he is to pull off a last-minute agreement, he needs to agree terms “faster”, the paper adds.

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