Brexit: Boris Johnson to use showdown meeting to tell EU ‘where movement is required’, raising no deal fears

Michael Gove also concedes EU officials will be stationed in Northern Ireland – to supervise checks on goods – in UK climbdown 

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 09 December 2020 10:13
'It can't be a deal at any price', says Michael Gove

Boris Johnson will “lay out where movement is required” to rescue a Brexit deal at his showdown Brussels meeting, Michael Gove says – making clear the onus is on the EU to compromise.

The Prime Minister will insist its demands are unacceptable and “need to be tempered” if a hugely-damaging no deal exit – in just 22 days’ time – is to be avoided, he said.

The comments will raise no deal fears, after Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator, warned foreign ministers he now believes that outcome is more likely than striking a trade agreement in time.

Mr Gove agreed there needed to be “movement on both sides”, when Mr Johnson meets  Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, for a make-or-break dinner.

But he stressed the EU must ditch its demand that “when the EU changes its rules, the UK has to follow suit or face the consequences”.

“The prime minister has been clear that we are going to maintain high standards in this country, but we are also going to be a sovereign country,” the Cabinet Office minister said.

“And that we need to be in control of our own rules and regulations, our laws and way of doing things.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Gove added: “I am hopeful that the prime minister will be able to able to lay out, over the course of dinner, where movement is required.

“And I hope that Ursula von der Leyen will be able to bring her colleagues with her, in order to make sure that we get the agreement that we want.”

Two phone conversations between the two politicians have failed to achieve a breakthrough, because the EU insists it is up to the UK to shift on fair competition rules, fishing rights and a mechanism to resolve disputes.

However, Brussels has said it is willing to keep talking beyond Thursday’s EU summit, after London ditched its plan to break international law over the last year’s withdrawal agreement.

A deal is not expected to be sealed at the dinner itself, which the UK government has conceded is merely an opportunity to inject “political impetus”.

Mr Gove suggested agreementn principle, on how to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol, reached on Tuesday, could provide a “smoother glide path towards a possible deal”.

But he was forced to concede that the deal will involve EU officials working in joint offices in Northern Ireland – on UK soil – to ensure there is no backsliding.

It is thought they will work from ‘hot desks, but Mr Gove insisted the EU’s demand for a permanent office had been defeated.

EU capitals are also expected to be given access to the UK’s customs databases, to monitor implementation from their own countries, in what could be a further controversial move.

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