Europe News

Brexit breakthrough? UK, EU agree to intensify trade talks

Pro-Brexit and pro-Remain protests have dominated Westminster since 2016.
Mike Kemp

Britain and the European Union agreed on Monday to intensify trade talks and work on legal texts, a breakthrough of sorts after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would walk away from negotiations that had been deadlocked for weeks.

After a weekend of both sides trading blame for the lack of movement in talks and calling on the other to move first, chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier agreed to a British demand to start working on legal texts to revive the talks.

With just over two months before Britain ends a status quo transition arrangement with the EU, any chance of securing a trade deal was hanging in the balance after both sides called on the other to move first.

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It seemed that to find progress, chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier decided to jump together.

"It is the case that my colleague David Frost was in conversation with Michel Barnier and I believe it is the case that Michel Barnier has agreed both to the intensification of talks and also to working on legal texts," Michael Gove, London's point man on the divorce deal, told parliament.

Barnier tweeted: "I just spoke to David Frost ... I confirmed that the EU remains available to intensify talks in London this week, on all subjects, and based on legal texts."

The breakthrough came just as Gove was addressing parliament to again give the EU an ultimatum, that it must fundamentally change its approach to smooth billions of dollars-worth of trade between the neighbours at the end of the year.

Almost immediately, he changed tack saying Barnier's move was constructive and he was looking forward with optimism.