‘Very significant issues’ remain: London urges EU to show ‘pragmatism’ ahead of Johnson’s Brexit meeting with EC president

As crunch talks near, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick has called on the EU to be flexible and pragmatic in a last-ditch attempt to overcome significant stumbling blocks and clinch a post-Brexit trade deal.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ program on Friday, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government claimed that there are “very significant issues” which need to be resolved before an agreement can be reached. These issues are thought to relate to the future of contentious fishing rights in UK waters, and state aid rules following the transition period. Jenrick said:

There isn’t very much time now, so we are urging the EU to show flexibility and pragmatism in these final stages of the talks,

The minster emphasized that the government wishes to move swiftly to reach the kind of trading agreement that already exists between the EU and Canada. If no deal is agreed, Jenrick said, the UK would be content with a relationship similar to that of Australia and the EU, something Boris Johnson has previously described as “a good outcome.” 

The announcement comes ahead of Johnson’s meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Saturday, in which the government hopes to “take stock of negotiations and discuss next steps.” On Thursday, von der Leyen declared that the EU would be launching legal action against Johnson’s government following the PM’s decision to renege on the Withdrawal Agreement signed in 2019.

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Friday’s remarks have prompted further speculation as to whether the UK and the EU have made adequate progress for both parties to engage in final stage negotiations, informally known as ‘the tunnel’. Reports suggest that French President Emmanuel Macron is pushing hard to retain EU fishing rights in British waters, whilst Reuters sources claimed on Thursday that trade negotiators have not made any headway over state aid, the most contentious outstanding issue.

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