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Frost in Brussels for face to face showdown with Barnier – 15 days to save trade deal


Lord Frost will continue his trade wrangles with European Union counterpart Michel Barnier in the Belgian capital for informal discussions that could prove make or break. Their meeting comes after Boris Johnson saw off a Tory rebellion on Monday over new legislation that would rip up the Brexit divorce deal agreed with the bloc less than a year ago. Brussels chiefs were left fuming after the publication of the Government’s Internal Market Bill revealed plans to hand ministers powers to overwrite EU customs checks and state aid rules for Northern Ireland.

Top eurocrats have issued a 15-day ultimatum to Mr Johnson, ordering the Prime Minister to scrap or amend his Brexit bill or face trade talks being called off.

Despite the tensions, Lord Frost and Michel Barnier have agreed to continue talks over a UK-EU trade agreement in the hope of striking a deal early next month.

Downing Street is convinced their combative approach to the Withdrawal Agreement’s Northern Ireland Protocol has shown signs of working.

Lord Frost has told the Prime Minister that European leaders are beginning to focus their attention on the trade talks, which are expected to be wrapped up ahead of a European Council summit next month.

British officials feel the legislation has provided a reality check for the EU and the disrupted talks has revealed just what is at stake if trade talks fail next month.

The talks are still held up by “significant differences” over the bloc’s demands for access to Britain’s fishing grounds and a regulatory level playing field on standards.

With little time left to conclude a deal, Mr Johnson’s Brexit envoy hopes to convince Mr Barnier to begin drafting legal texts on the two most complicated issues.

The move has been so far resisted by Brussels in an attempt to force concessions out of Britain before progress can be made.

After the last formal round of negotiations, EU officials were keen to pour cold water on suggestions by UK officials that progress had been made.

An EU source told Express.co.uk: “There was useful work done on some of the files, which will come into play if we ever get to the point of jointly drafting a legal text.

“But, we’re in mid-September and by now we can’t afford just minor technical progress, we should be progressing in leaps – which we’re clearly not doing.”

Sources close to the negotiations said the trade talks will largely smooth out technical issues ahead of the next formal round on September 28.

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Sources in Brussels have also revealed they have drawn up plans to end the Northern Ireland food blockade threats “within days” amid growing anger in No 10.

Eurocrats will add the UK to the bloc’s third country list of exporters once the Government publishes legislation setting out food safety standards at some point next month.


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