Brexit Bulletin: Leaders to the rescue?

Brexit Bulletin

What's Happening? Boris Johnson will intervene in the Brexit talks in an attempt to unlock a deal. 

The British prime minister will get involved personally for the first time since June when he holds talks on Saturday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

It's a move that keeps the ball in play for a little longer after the final round of formal negotiations ended on Friday. Downing Street described the week's talks as "constructive and wide-ranging." Nevertheless, Johnson is still likely to have to offer some difficult concessions to the EU if a deal is to be reached by the end of the month.

The atmosphere may have improved — some of the antagonism that blighted earlier talks has dissipated in recent weeks and both sides are intent on getting a deal. Officials are hopeful they are in a position to enable Johnson and von der Leyen to make a final push.

Success will require the two leaders to compromise on issues they have failed to agree on for the past seven months: Britain's state-aid rules, how any accord will be enforced and what access EU boats will have to U.K. waters. Some progress was made on the first two this week — but the last could still scupper an overall agreement. 

The EU looks happy to let the talks run for a little longer, and certainly doesn't want to be seen to end the negotiations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with the EU's top negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday to review progress. There are plenty of eyes on the outcome: central bankers, investors and markets are all getting twitchy.

Johnson was able to resuscitate the negotiations in June by leaving EU chiefs in no doubt that a deal was his preferred option and that he understood what compromises were needed. But October isn't June. Johnson's self-imposed deadline is only two weeks away. And those compromises still need to be made.

Ian Wishart

Beyond Brexit

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