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Boris Johnson tells EU leaders to ‘put a tiger in the tank’ after fresh talks to break post-Brexit deadlock

Boris Johnson

4 min read

Boris Johnson has urged European leaders to “put a tiger in the tank” as both sides vowed to find “fresh momentum” in stalled talks on Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the bloc.

The Prime Minister on Monday insisted the two sides were not “actually that far apart” after a “high level” video conference call with leaders including European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Britain and the EU have both agreed to an “intensified” round of discussions in a bid to make progress on key areas of disagreement.

The two sides remain at loggerheads on a string of issues, including access to Britain’s fishing waters after Brexit; Britain’s objections to a so-called ‘level playing field’ of rights and standards in any future trade tie-up; governance of any trade deal; and future security cooperation between the two sides.

And on Friday the UK formally ruled out extending the current transition period with the EU, which allows it continue accessing the bloc’s single market tariff-free until the end of the year.

In a joint statement after Monday’s talks, the two sides said: “The parties welcomed the constructive discussions on the future relationship that had taken place under the leadership of chief negotiators David Frost and Michel Barnier, allowing both sides to clarify and further understand positions.”

“They noted that four rounds had been completed and texts exchanged despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

But they added: “The parties agreed nevertheless that new momentum was required.  They supported the plans agreed by chief negotiators to intensify the talks in July and to create the most conducive conditions for concluding and ratifying a deal before the end of 2020.

“This should include, if possible, finding an early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement.”

As well as the two leaders, Monday’s talks included Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and chief negotiator David Frost on the UK side, as well as European Council president Charles Michel and David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament.


Speaking after the videocall, Mr Johnson told reporters: “As I said to the three presidents, put a tiger in the tank.

“Because it's pretty clear what the UK needs, and what our EU friends I think need to understand.

“We can't have the involvement of the European Court of Justice in this country. We can't have a system whereby we continue to have to obey EU law, even when we're out of the EU. And we've got to get a great deal for our fish.“

Despite spelling out the key areas of dispute between the two sides, Mr Johnson struck an upbeat tone on the prospect of achieving a deal, saying: “I don't think we're actually that far apart. But what we need now is to see a bit of oomph in the negotiations.“

A fresh round of talks is scheduled to kick off on June 29, with two sides hoping to include some face-to-face discussions after a round that has been conducted remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Johnson said he believed there was “no reason” why the outline of a deal should not be “done in July” — but he stressed: “I think people understand that we cannot leave the EU and remain somehow controlled by EU law. 

“That that isn't going to work. But there is a good deal to be done. I certainly don't want to see this going on until the Autumn, Winter, as I think, perhaps in Brussels they would like. 

“I don't see any point in that so let's get it done.”


Tweeting after the discussions, Mr Michel meanwhile said: “A broad and ambitious agreement, in line with [European Council] guidelines, is in our mutual interest.”

And he said: “Ready to put a tiger in the tank but not to buy a pig in a poke. Level playing field is essential.

“What we all really said today was that the faster we can do this, the better.”

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