Johnson, von der Leyen to meet in Brussels as Brexit clock ticks

Johnson, von der Leyen to meet in Brussels as Brexit clock ticks

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will travel to Brussels for crisis talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday as time runs out to reach a post-Brexit trade agreement.

The prime minister and president will “continue discussions on the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU” over dinner, Johnson’s office said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

Earlier Johnson had been gloomy about the prospects of reaching an agreement with the EU in time for the end of the Brexit transition period on Dec. 31, but said he still hoped it would be possible to reach an accord.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will head to Brussels within days for urgent talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen amid growing fears on both sides that Brexit trade talks will fail [File: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg]“The situation at the moment is very tricky,” he told reporters in a pooled television clip. “There are just limits beyond which, obviously, no sensible independent government or country could go.”

His government said on Tuesday it will drop controversial clauses in the Internal Market Bill that would rip up parts of the Brexit divorce agreement, bringing to an end a dispute that soured the talks and led EU leaders to question whether they could trust the British prime minister.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said that a joint EU-U.K. committee set up to settle the problem of the Irish border had reached an agreement that is “a success for the people of Northern Ireland.”

The two sides remain divided over the three key issues of fisheries, a competitive playing field for standards and subsidies and how any agreement might be enforced.