Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning to hold Brexit trade talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in June, it is reported, with hopes of securing a deal before autumn, it is reported.
“We need a broad agreement in place by the summer,” an unnamed UK official was quoted as saying by the Financial Times. “We can’t still be having this conversation in September or October,” the official added.
Downing Street said that the European Union’s plan for a common regulatory framework was “novel and unbalanced”, the report added.
“As soon as the EU accepts we will not conclude an agreement on that basis, we will be able to make progress,” Johnson’s spokesman said in a statement cited by the Financial Times.
British officials have reportedly warned Brexit trade talks cannot continue into the autumn, as both sides try to hash out an agreement before the December 2020 deadline.
Johnson and his government have repeatedly resisted calls to extend the Brexit transition period despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Current trading rules with the EU – which mirror those prior to Brexit – will end come 2021, and the UK risks falling back on World Trade Organization terms without a deal.
That has left officials pinning hopes on what FT sources called a “high level” meeting between Johnson and EU Commission chief von der Leyen this month.
Unnamed officials told the newspaper they hoped the meeting would provide fresh “political momentum” for progress.
So far negotiators have got caught up in disputes over fishing rights and the EU’s insistence on common standards for state aid, the environment and workers’ rights.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has warned Brexit trade talks could fall apart if the UK does not change its positions on issues including a common regulatory framework the EU wants to introduce.
But Number 10 has criticised this concept, pointing out it does not form part of any other EU trade deal.
“As soon as the EU accepts we will not conclude an agreement on that basis, we will be able to make progress,” Mr Johnson’s spokesman told the FT.
Meanwhile, London mayor Sadiq Khan has urged Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove to extend the Brexit trade talks deadline.
He pressed Gobve to “put political ideology aside” to push for an extension that gives both sides more time to reach a deal in the wake of the economic tumult caused by coronavirus.
“The last thing the country needs as it tries to find a way back from the devastation wreaked by coronavirus is more chaos and uncertainty,” Khan wrote.