A phone call on Wednesday evening put paid to any hopes that a Brexit deal could be reached in time for Thursday’s European Council.
A statement from Downing Street said, “The leaders discussed the latest state of play of the negotiations on our future relationship with the EU, ahead of the October European Council.”
“The Prime Minister noted the desirability of a deal but expressed his disappointment that more progress had not been made over the past two weeks.”
The statement concluded, “The Prime Minister said that he looked forward to hearing the outcome of the European Council and would reflect before setting out the UK’s next steps in the light of his statement of 7 September.”
Von der Leyen said after the call, “Took stock of negotiations with the UK in a call with Boris Johnson together with Charles Michel.”
“The EU is working on a deal, but not at any price. Conditions must be right, on fisheries, level-playing field and governance. Still a lot of work ahead of us.”
“The Prime Minister noted the desirability of a deal but expressed his disappointment that more progress had not been made over the past two weeks” Downing Street statement
Michel, for his part, said in a tweet, “We discussed Brexit with Boris Johnson and Ursula von der leyen. On the eve of the European Council we pressed again for progress to be made at the negotiation table.”
Tensions between the two sides increased sharply recently when Johnson unveiled the Internal Market Bill - the draft legislation which would allow his government to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The EU responded by launching an infringement procedure against the UK on October 1 over its breach of the Withdrawal Agreement.
A mere two days later, following a phone call, Johnson and von der Leyen instructed their respective chief negotiators to “work intensively” in order to try to bridge the “significant gaps notably, but not only, in the areas of fisheries, the level playing field, and governance.”
“Everything is just as it was before the phone call 11 days ago … A lot of noise about nothing. Just playing poker to the (bitter) end?” Bernd Lange, UK Coordination Group
The latest Brexit anticlimax was met with weary resignation from Bernd Lange, a member of Parliament’s UK Coordination Group (UKCG) and chair of the International Trade Committee, who said wryly, “Everything is just as it was before the phone call 11 days ago.”
“It's not just von der Leyen who's wondering about Boris Johnson’s big declaration on the intensification of negotiations. A lot of noise about nothing. Just playing poker to the (bitter) end?
Fellow UKCG member, French Renew Europe deputy Nathalie Loiseau said before this evening’s call between the two sides, “A No Deal can be avoided. It’s a pure question of British political will. It has been lacking so far. If the British government is serious about reaching an agreement, it should move, and move now.”