Boris Johnson will fly to Brussels later to discuss a post-Brexit agreement with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
The deadline to reach an agreement is before December 31, when the UK ceases to comply with EU trade rules.
Talks Over Dinner
The two will hold talks over dinner, after talks between officials ended in a stalemate.
The main differences are with fishing rights, competition rules and how the agreement will be implemented by the police.
At the dinner, which is expected to begin at 19:00 GMT, Prime Minister Johnson will work on a series of key points of attachment to Ms von der Leyen, representing the leaders of the 27 EU countries.
A UK government source said progress at the political level could allow talks – between Lord Frost of the UK and Michel Barnier of the EU – to continue in the coming days.
But the source added that it is important to have “certainty” that the agreement may not happen.
The Purpose Of The Meet
EU sources told the BBC that Mr Barnier had informed ministers in the European blog that negotiations were not in line with an agreement reached before the deadline.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says the purpose of the meal is not to suspend or announce an agreement.
“The purpose of the meeting is to see if both parties are legally ready to tolerate the idea that budging, after negotiations, and open communication, are over,” he said.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said “there needs to be movement from both sides” but added that the UK wants to “control its own rules”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that Ms von der Leyen “would want to ensure that all EU member states see that the agreement is in the best interests of all and that it will require some movement from other EU parties”, adding: if you have two political goals one by one you can find a way. “
Mr Johnson will take part in the Prime Minister’s questions before visiting the Belgian capital. EU leaders are expected to meet at their summit on Thursday.
Not surprisingly, EU-UK talks landed on the telephone.
That was foretold in detail. As it was “both of them made a last-minute political compromise”, which is believed to have come to an end, after both parties abandoned their high-profile chicken game.
But the dinner is much more complicated than the prime minister who announced “Okay, Ursula, we will give you your playground, if you (EU) can give us our fish.”
Conflicts of opinion, clear from the beginning, are still very much alive.
With the government’s determination to protect its post-Brexit regime, and not to register in another Brussels law book on the one hand and the other, the EU is focused on protecting its one market a) in what it sees as potential competition for the UK and b) in terms of global prestige.
Brussels believes that compromising on a single UK contract market could weaken it in the eyes of other future trading partners.
Conclusion: As Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen say, they still hope for an agreement, ‘no agreement’ is on the table too late in the evening, next to dinner.
In separate talks on Tuesday, the UK and the EU reached an agreement on certain trade arrangements in Northern Ireland – including a Brexit border crossing and NI trade rules, and how the new Irish Sea border would work.
It means that the UK has now abandoned plans to violate parts of its EU withdrawal agreement signed last year, which could have violated international law.
The NI Agreemen
Details of the NI agreement have not yet been published, but Cabinet Minister Michael Gove made a statement to Communities on Wednesday.
The deal was a milestone for business, said BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent Jayne McCormack. “But some firms and political parties may not welcome them if they see good details about the decision,” he said.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Gove confirmed that EU officials would be present in Northern Ireland “to ensure that the processes, which we hold, are in place.”
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said there would be a need for “some explanation” from the government because members of Parliament “were assured by the government that there would be no cultural leaders who would remain”.
Brexit For Beginners
Brexit has happened but the rules have not changed at once: the UK has left the European Union on 31 January 2020, but leaders need time to negotiate a health deal thereafter – they have 11 months.
Negotiations are happening: The UK and the EU until 31 December 2020 have agreed to trade and other things, such as fishing rights.
In the absence of an agreement: Border checks and customs duties will be submitted between the UK and the EU. But with the agreement or not, we will still see changes.
Level Playing Field
The UK and the EU are at loggerheads over the so-called “level playing field” – a set of shared rules and standards to ensure that businesses in one country have less unfair advantage than their competitors in others.
Brussels wants the UK to follow EU rules closely in areas such as labor rights and environmental laws, but the UK says Brexit’s aim is to break free from common law and strengthen national sovereignty.
And both sides are at odds over how any future trade disputes should be resolved.
With regard to fishing, both sides continue to debate how many European fishing boats should enter British waters, and how much they can be allowed to hold from next year.