PRIME Minister Boris Johnson has again been rebuffed in his efforts to speak with the leaders of Germany and France in efforts to secure a trade agreement with the EU.
Last week, Johnson offered to tour European capitals in order to iron out the remaining differences but this proposition was rejected.
The phone call with French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel – who are two leaders seen as powerbrokers in signing off on any EU compromises that might be required to ratify a deal – was blocked by the European Commission.
Brussels has insisted that the Commission is leading negotiations on behalf of the 27 member states of the EU, so all have do go through Commission president Ursula von der Leyen
During a call today, Johnson and von der Leyen agreed to go the “extra mile” in continuing trade negotiations in a bid to prevent a No-Deal Brexit situation on January 1 when transition arrangements come to an end.
The deadline for these negotiations to end had been set for this evening.
Speaking from Downing Street after the call, Johnson said: “I’ve repeated my offer, which is if it is necessary to talk to other capitals, I’m very happy to do that.
“The Commission is very determined to keep the negotiations to the way they have been done, between us and the Commission. That’s fine.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that the UK wants to be “treated like any other independent self-respecting democracy”.
He added: “If the EU can accept that at a political level then there’s every reason to be confident, but there is still, I think, a long way to go.”
The Telegraph reported last week that Johnson was blocked three times from speaking directly with the German and French leaders as the EU sought to keep a united front over the Brexit talks.
The paper said the Tory leader raised the prospect of a meeting with Merkel and Macron when at dinner in Brussels with von der Leyen on Wednesday.
Europe’s top official is said to have told Johnson he was welcome to make the offer but that she knew it would be turned down.
The main sticking points in negotiations are fisheries, the so-called “level playing field” and governance.
The EU wants to continue to have access to UK waters for its fishing fleets after December 31, but the UK argues that being an independent coastal state, they should be able to prioritise its own boats.
The UK still needs access to EU markets as its fisherman sell to both Britain and Europe.
The “level playing field” rules are intended to ensure businesses on one side do not gain an advantage over those on the other.
The EU wants a high degree of alignment by the UK with its standards on workers’ rights, the environment and state aid for businesses in exchange for access to the single market.
Both sides are at odds over the mechanism for resolving disputes and enforcing any agreement.
UK negotiators will not accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Jusctice.
Brussels is nervous about the UK standing by any deal after Johnson threatened to break international law with the UK Internal Market Bill.
The withdrawal of those measures has eased the tensions, but suspicion still lingers.