Boris Johnson and the EU’s three presidents, Ursula von der Leyen, Charles Michel and David Sassoli, have all agreed to accelerate the process in order to broker a deal before the end of the transition period. And now lead negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier are tasked with establishing new working methods in order to meet the demands of their bosses. Sources on both sides have hinted this could involve the publication of new draft proposals in a bid to find room for compromises.
So-called “non papers”, proposals without official standing, could be used to reveal negotiating hands without tabling a genuine plan.
It has also been suggested that officials could “lock themselves in a room for as long as it takes” to “engineer a breakthrough”.
In order to focus minds, the negotiating teams on both sides will be shrunk in size to their most senior members.
No fewer than six planned negotiating sessions have been announced between next Monday and August 21.
David Frost, the EU adviser to Boris Johnson, tweeted: “These meetings will be smaller and focused on seeing whether we can begin to make genuine and rapid progress towards an agreement. We will go to Brussels in good faith to engage with the EU’s concerns.
“This needs to be a real negotiation and some of the EU’s unrealistic positions will have to change if we are to move forward. We have noted carefully what the EU has said in recent days on this subject and look forward to discussing it.
“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.
“Finally, I want to be clear that the Government will not agree to ideas like the one currently circulating giving the EU a new right to retaliate with tariffs if we chose to make laws suiting our interests. We could not leave ourselves open to such unforeseeable economic risk.”
The UK and EU will hold face-to-face talks, alternatively between Brussels and London, for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak.
The two sides have also said further negotiating rounds could be held in September if they are close to finding a breakthrough.
Mr Barnier last night vowed to work on “clever compromises” in order to meet Mr Johnson’s ambitious timetable to seal a Brexit deal this summer.
The European Union’s chief negotiator warned the Prime Minister he would have to meet him halfway when trade talks resume next week.
The Frenchman told a Brussels-based think-tank a future relationship pact is “still in our reach” but hit out at Downing Street for showing “no willingness” to find a middle ground.
Mr Barnier claimed he could walk away from trade negotiations if British negotiators refuse to soften their fisheries demands.
He said: “If the UK sticks to its positions there will be no discussion on fisheries and no discussion on trade – we are open to finding a compromise.”
The Brussels bureaucrat, however, said progress is being made in a number of areas, including police and nuclear cooperation.
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Mr Barnier said the UK and EU have until a “moment of truth” in October in order to reach a deal before the transition period expires.
He insisted the EU Parliament and Council would need months to ratify any potential agreement.
He said: “Already we made a number of openings in key areas but the UK showed no willingness to engage. We are ready to work on landing zones.
“We have not received the right answer from the UK side. In any case the real moment of truth will be in October.”