The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost will have dinner with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier at 10 Downing Street tonight in the lead-up to the next round of trade talks.
A Downing Street spokesperson said the two men would meet tonight in an informal setting to discuss some of the negotiations’ most difficult sticking points.
These include EU access to UK fishing waters and business competition regulations known as the level playing field.
In what could be seen as a jibe at the EU’s negotiating position on fishing, the two will be served halibut for main course, with lemon, anchovy, rosemary & capers, potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
This will be preceded by an entree of chargrilled asparagus, courgettes and cherry tomato salad, and for dessert a terrine of Summer Fruits with vanilla ice cream.
UK negotiators have said in the past that the video conference format of the early rounds of talks meant that informal discussions between the teams could not be held.
They said that this was an important part of the negotiating process that was missing from talks.
The dinner between Frost and Barnier will be seen as an opportunity for both sides to clear blockages between the two sides in an informal setting.
Boris Johnson has said he wanted the parameters of a deal wrapped up by the end of this month ahead of the end of the post-Brexit transition period on 31 December.
The government has said it wants to give businesses enough time to adjust to changes next year and that negotiators will walk away and prepare for a no-deal scenario before autumn if no breakthroughs happen.
Johnson told EU chiefs last month that both sides needed to “put a tiger in the tank” and add a “bit of oomph” to negotiations.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
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.
Barnier has accused the UK of trying to “cherry pick” parts of EU membership without the added responsibilities.