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Gib talks continue as Boris Johnson faces decision time on UK/EU negotiations

Eyleen Gomez

The latest round of technical talks on the future relationship between Gibraltar and the European Union were held in Gibraltar on Wednesday.

As on previous occasions, the meeting brought together negotiating teams from Gibraltar, the UK and Spain but no details were released on the content of the discussions.

The meeting, which had not been announced beforehand, was confirmed in a short two-line statement issued by No.6 Convent Place, which said both Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia had participated.

It added that the talks continued today in the Campo de Gibraltar, adding no further information.

The meeting in Gibraltar came as the UK and the EU continued their negotiations toward a UK/EU post-Brexit trade in Brussels ahead of a summit today of EU leaders.

Boris Johnson, who wanted to know by today whether a deal was possible, will decide whether to walk away or continue with Brexit negotiations after the European Council summit, Downing Street said.

Number 10 said progress has been made in discussions over the last few days – primarily in technical areas – but that differences still remain, namely over fishing rights.

Last night there were reports that the UK and EU would prolong Brexit talks past the UK’s self-imposed deadline to try bridge stubborn gaps holding up a new trade agreement.

The Prime Minister was due to speak to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel on Wednesday evening.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson would “need to take a decision on next steps” following the council meeting and in light of his conversation with Mrs von der Leyen.

The spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “Some progress has been made this week, primarily in technical areas of the negotiations, but there are still differences, with fisheries being the starkest.”

“We need to get the substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.”

“The Prime Minister’s September 7 statement was very clear about the significance of October 15.”

“He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team.”

“I cannot prejudge what that decision will be.”

It is thought likely that a decision will be made on Friday.

Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser Lord Frost is taking part in negotiations in Brussels until the eve of the summit.

EU leaders will then discuss progress in the negotiations before dinner on Thursday.

In an invitation letter to council members, Mr Michel wrote: “It is in the interests of both sides to have an agreement in place before the end of the transition period. This cannot, however, happen at any price. The coming days are decisive.”

“I will invite our negotiator to update us on the latest developments. Key issues include, in particular, the level playing field, fisheries and governance.”

Mr Johnson said in September that there “needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it’s going to be in force by the end of the year”.

He added: “So there is no sense in thinking about timelines that go beyond that point. If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.”

The transition period, which kept the UK aligned to the EU’s single market and customs union rules to allow trade to flow smoothly after Brexit, is due to expire at the end of the year.

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