Prime minister's deadline passes as EU leaders' summit begins – what we know so far

Thu 15 Oct 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


The EU leaders’ summit – which prime minister Boris Johnson pinpointed as the deadline by which a UK-EU trade deal needed to be agreed – begun today (15 October) in Brussels. 

Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, has advised that the UK should not walk out of the talks because deals to cover security and fishing are possible over the next two weeks, according to the Times

Negotiators have so far failed to reach a deal regarding fisheries, state aid and governance.  

Deadline missed 

Last month, the Prime Minister set today’s European Union summit as the deadline for an agreement on trade, saying it would be time to “move on” if no deal had been secured. 

UK officials conceded on Wednesday that the PM’s mid-October deadline will not be met and No. 10 has so far refrained from declaring talks are over.  

Government officials said Johnson would decide how to proceed after hearing the outcome of the summit. 

Barnier update

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier is expected to give EU leaders an update on the state of play in the talks. 

According to Politico, we can expect a statement from EU leaders today expressing their continued support for Barnier and the importance of unity among the 27 remaining EU members.  

The Guardian has reported a leak of this statement which calls on the UK to “make the necessary moves” to progress the talks to their final stages. 

EU impatience 

Some EU members are becoming increasingly impatient with the UK, according to Politico. 

“They want to send a stronger message; we’ve shown enough patience,” a senior official said. “The atmosphere is clearly getting more radical. The tone itself is getting much harsher and harsher. Patience is now literally running out because there’s no time left.” 

Although the EU has always pointed to the end of October as the deadline to reach a deal – in order for there to be sufficient time for ratification in European and British parliaments - talks could continue up to the next European summit in mid-November. 

Avoid split 

Meanwhile, businesses across the continent have urged the EU and UK to secure a deal to avoid a ‘brutal split’, reports the FT.  

Three business organisations, in Germany, Italy, and France have warned that failure to sign a deal will lead to “cascading consequences” including tariffs, delays and blockages.