The Prime Minister will meet European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to try and thrash out the “remaining significant differences” holding up an agreement. Their face-to-face summit, arranged in a phone call yesterday, is expected to take place tomorrow. Mr Johnson’s first trip to Brussels since taking over in Downing Street will be seen on both sides of the Channel as a sign that a trade deal is tantalisingly close. But they admit the three key sticking points – a level playing field on trade, state aid subsidies and fisheries – still need to be resolved. A senior Government source sounded a note of caution last night, warning that no progress had been made for days. “Talks are in the same position now as they were on Friday,” the source said. “We have made no tangible progress tangible progress. It’s clear this must now continue politically. Whilst we do not consider this process to be closed, things are looking very tricky and there’s every chance we are not going to get there.”
Brussels sources were also pessimistic the Prime Minister’s last-gasp trip to the Belgian capital will be enough to end the impasse.
One EU diplomat said: “Political intervention won’t do anything when the positions are still heavily guarded.
“Perhaps there is choreography leading to the EU’s Wednesday/Thursday special summit.
“However, the fundamentals have not seen change and basically nothing has altered for the last eight weeks.
“I’m in the dark what would now suddenly move which didn’t before.”