James Forsyth

Can Boris’s dash to Brussels secure a Brexit deal?

Can Boris's dash to Brussels secure a Brexit deal?
Boris with European Council president Ursula von der Leyen in Downing Street earlier this year (Getty images)
Text settings

The upshot of Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen’s conversation this evening is that the pair will meet in Brussels in the ‘coming days’ to see if they can resolve the remaining ‘significant differences’ on the level playing field, governance and fish. Presumably this meeting will take place before the European Council on Thursday.

Johnson and von der Leyen are being left with a lot to resolve in their summit. This isn’t going to be simply about finding a compromise on fish but on sorting the three issues that have bedevilled the negotiations from the start.

Optimists will point to how negotiations on the withdrawal agreement last year seemed as stuck as the trade talks do now before Johnson and Leo Varadkar had their in-person meeting at that hotel on the Wirral. But the issues now involve the interests of more EU members and are, perhaps, even more legally complex.

An in-person meeting has to be more conducive to a serious negotiation than a phone call or a video conference. But given how the negotiators have struggled to bridge the gap on these three issues over nine months, it is a big ask to see if Johnson and von der Leyen can find a way through in a meeting this late in the day.