Boris Johnson and the heads of the EU have agreed that “new momentum” is needed in trade negotiations for a deal to be struck by the 31 December deadline.
In a joint statement issued after their Brexit summit today, leaders of the UK and EU said they needed to “intensify the talks in July and to create the most conducive conditions for concluding and ratifying a deal before the end of 2020”.
The statement also noted that there will definitely not be an extension to the deadline for a trade deal.
Johnson said shortly after the meeting that both sides needed to “put a tiger in the tank” and add “a bit of oomph in the negotiations”.
He also said the two sides were not very far apart and that a deal could be done by next month.
The long-awaited meeting was held between Johnson, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and EU Parliament President David Sassoli.
The meeting came after the UK and EU had completed four negotiating rounds, with both sides saying they were at a stalemate over several key issues.
These include EU access to UK fishing waters, business competition regulations and overall governance of the deal.
Last week, UK and EU negotiators agreed to a new negotiating timetable, which will see some meetings happen in person for the first time in months.
There will be five consecutive week-long negotiating rounds starting next month.
Today’s video conference summit was expected to provide a way for gaps to be bridged through high-level political intervention.
“The Parties agreed…that new momentum was required,” today’s statement read.
“They supported the plans agreed by Chief Negotiators to intensify the talks in July and to create the most conducive conditions for concluding and ratifying a deal before the end of 2020.
“This should include, if possible, finding an early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement.”
Johnson also spoke to The Sun after the talks to underscore the need for more urgency in talks.
He said: “As I said to the three presidents you know, ‘put a tiger in the tank’, because it’s very clear what the UK needs and what our EU friends need to understand.
“We can’t have the involvement of the European Court of Justice in this country, we can’t have a system by where we continue to have to obey EU law even when we’re out of the EU and we’ve got to get a great deal for our fish.
“It’s very clear what we need to achieve, I don’t think we’re actually that far apart, but what we need to see now is a bit of oomph in the negotiations. What we all really said is the faster we can do this the better – there is no reason why you shouldn’t get this done in July.”
Charles Michel tweeted in response to Johnson that the EU was “ready to put a tiger in the tank”, but not “to buy a pig in a poke”.
UK negotiators have said that they will decide before the end of summer whether it is worth continuing in talks or to instead walk away and prepare to leave the transition period on no-deal terms.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said today that it was imperative to give UK and EU businesses enough time to prepare for new conditions next year.
Fishing policy is one of the major flashpoints in talks, with EU member states pushing to retain the same access to UK fishing waters as they had when Britain was in the EU.
Chief UK negotiator Frost has described this as a “non runner” and is asking for a “zonal attachment” agreement, which can be periodically reviewed.
Frost said the UK would be “an independent coastal nation” on 1 January next year in any case.
The EU is also asking for the UK to match regulations on things like labour laws, environmental protection and state aid provisions.
In return for this level-playing field for businesses on both sides, the EU has said it will allow zero-tariff trading with the UK.
UK negotiators have said they will not allow the EU to set British regulations on these issues.
Last week, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said the UK was trying to “cherry pick” benefits of EU membership without the added responsibilities.