EU, UK leaders to meet this month as post-Brexit talks stall

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European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks during a media conference, following the third round of Brexit talks between the EU and Britain, at EU headquarters in Brussels, Friday, May 15, 2020. Talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom on their future relationship in the wake of Brexit have ground to a near-standstill despite the urgency for progress before a summit next month.(Francois Lenoir, Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS – The European Union's top executive and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet this month for talks that could give new momentum to the stalled post-Brexit negotiations.

As a fourth round of talks between teams of negotiators resumed Tuesday with little hope for a breakthrough on a future trade deal, the bloc's executive arm said a meeting is planned between EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Johnson by the end of June.

Daniel Ferrie, the commission spokesperson for EU-U.K. negotiations, said the date and format of the encounter have yet to be determined.

The U.K. left the political institutions of the EU on Jan. 31, but remains inside the EU’s tariff-free single market and customs union until the end of the year. That so-called transition period can be extended by two years although a deal to do so has to be made by July 1, according to the legal documents accompanying Brexit.

Johnson has repeatedly said he will not extend the transition period beyond Dec. 31.

“A crucial week ahead of us to make tangible progress across all areas,” said Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, in a message posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

Ahead of this week's round of talks — which take place via video-conference due to the coronavirus pandemic — Britain accused the EU of making unbalanced demands, while Barnier warned in an interview with the Sunday Times that there would not be an “agreement at any cost.”

The three previous rounds of discussions have failed to produce much headway, notably around fishing rights. The U.K. wants a fisheries deal to be a standalone agreement whereby the two sides negotiate access and quotas. The EU, for its part, has sought to link fisheries to other trade issues.