British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will travel to to Brussels in a last-minute attempt to break a deadlock in post-Brexit negotiations, the European Commission announced on Monday.
“We asked our chief negotiators and their teams to prepare an overview of the remaining differences to be discussed in a physical meeting in Brussels in the coming days,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Johnson said in a joint statement.
A British spokesperson confirmed that Johnson would travel to Belgium’s capital to join the meeting. A commission spokesperson said it remained to be confirmed who else would attend the meeting.
Also expected in Brussels this week are the 27 EU leaders, who are scheduled to attend a summit on Thursday and Friday.
The announcement came after an evening phone call between von der Leyen and Johnson, set to salvage negotiations that have come under increasing strain over the last few weeks with barely any progress made.
The face-to-face meeting will likely be influenced by the outcome of a British vote on Monday evening, which might re-introduce controversial provisions in its Internal Market Bill.
The bill, a provisional law outlining trade deals within the four British nations after the post-Brexit transition period runs out, angered EU officials after it was published in September.
It gives British lawmakers powers to make rules about state aid and customs procedures for trade from Northern Ireland to Britain, which would break the Withdrawal Agreement reached between London and the EU.
Britain formally left the European Union at the end of January but remains in the single market and customs union until the end of the year. If there is no deal by this deadline, the harshest of tariffs and cumbersome custom checks would be reimposed.
In an apparent concession to the EU on Monday afternoon, the British government said it is prepared to remove some clauses to comply with the withdrawal agreement of the two sides.
In a statement from Johnson’s Number 10 Downing Street office, it said that “final decisions are expected in the coming days.”
“If the solutions being considered in those discussions are agreed, the UK Government would be prepared to remove clause 44 of the UK Internal Market Bill, concerning export declarations,” the statement said.
“The UK Government would also be prepared to deactivate clauses 45 and 47, concerning state aid, such that they could be used only when consistent with the United Kingdom’s rights and obligations under international law,” it said.
A British spokesperson said specifics would depend on a potential deal.
The change comes after an intensive few days of discussions over future trade negotiations between Britain and Brussels.
After chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart, David Frost, called for a break in negotiations on Friday due to a lack of progress, von der Leyen and Johnson instructed them to continue their talks in Brussels.
But despite talks on the highest political level, progress continued to be stalled on Monday.
Finding a way to create a level playing field for competing businesses, as well as seeking deals on fisheries and governance, remain the three key areas of disagreement, Barnier told EU ambassadors on Monday.
A senior British government source echoed the assessment and said that talks were in the same position as they were on Friday – when a break had been called.
“We have made no tangible progress. It’s clear this must now continue politically. Whilst we do not consider this process to be closed, things are looking very tricky and there’s every chance we are not going to get there,” the source said.