Speaking today, Ms von der Leyen called on the UK to clarify exactly what it wants from Brexit negotiations. However, several political commentators said Britain hhad been very clear on its desire for a clean break from EU regulations and bureaucracy. Sir Keir Starmer has refused to rule out rejoining the EU in a shock announcement at the Labour leadership hustings on Sunday. Speaking on a panel with fellow contenders, Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey, Sir Keir could not rule out the possibility of rejoining the trade bloc in the distant future. Last week, the EU and UK concluded the first round of negotiations although Michel Barnier declared on Thursday the two sides had multiple areas of “divergence”.
Chiefly, according to Mr Barnier, the two sides still remain at odds over the issue of fisheries, fair and equal competition, criminal justice and the eventual dispute settlement.
Although he said the areas of differences remained, he said he believed a deal could be reached while warning it would be difficult.
He said: “To be completely frank with you, there are many divergences and they are very serious divergences.
“Which is probably quite natural after the first round of negotiations.
“Our differences come as no surprise, especially after only one round of negotiations, but some are very, very difficult.
“However, I continue to believe that we can reach a good agreement for both sides.”
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Brexit LIVE: Ursula von der Leyen left red-faced
Micheal Gove has hit back at Ursula von der Leyen, insisting the UK has been clear on its intentions
4.01pm update: UK and EU partners need to decide if Brexit timetable is realistic, says John McDonnell
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has questioned whether the government could still keep to Boris Johnson’s timetable to conclude a post-Brexit free trade deal with the European Union by the end of the year in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
In a pre-Budget address in London, Mr McDonnell said Labour did not want to engage in party politics at a time of crisis.
However, he said the Prime Minister should not have waited until last week to chair his first meeting of the government’s Cobra contingencies committee on coronavirus.
And he said Chancellor Rishi Sunak should have made a statement 10 days ago setting out the measures they were prepared to take to support the economy.
Mr McDonnell said: “In these circumstances you need to be fast in demonstrating that there is a clear plan of action nationally, but also internationally. Blind optimism is no substitute for that.”
In an interview with the PA news agency following his speech, Mr McDonnell called for cross-party talks on whether the timetable for reaching a trade deal with the EU was still feasible.
“Is there enough bandwidth within government to deal with this crisis as well as the crisis that we are facing in terms of climate change as well as the crisis in our public services and Brexit too?” he said.
“I think there needs to be a serious examination by government itself and proper consultation on a cross-party basis with our European partners whether the existing timetable is realistic. Let’s look again.”
Michael Gove updated his Cabinet colleagues on the progress of talks on Monday
3.26pm update: Gove hits back at von der Leyen – UK has been clear!
Michael Gove has hit back at the EU after Ursula von der Leyen said the UK needed to “make up its mind” on what kind of a post-Brexit deal it wanted.
Mr Gove claimed the team of British negotiators who headed to Brussels for the first round of talks last week “made clear” that they wanted to become an independent country in 2021 and ruled out an extension to the transition period.
Updating MPs on the first round of talks, Cabinet Office minister Mr Gove said: “The UK’s team made clear that on January 1 2021 the UK would regain its economic and political independence in full, and that the future relationship would need to reflect that reality.”
Before the next round of talks, the UK expects to table “a number of legal texts, including a draft FTA (free trade agreement)”, Mr Gove said.
2.48pm update: “Punchy move” by the UK
The UK will release a draft legal text ahead of the second round of Brexit negotiations next week.
Commenting on the approach, political editor for The Sun Tom Newton Dunn said the UK’s approach was a “punchy” one.
He said: “Punchy move by No10. Doing to the EU what the EU did to the UK during Withdrawal Agreement negotiations.”
Brexit LIVE: No 10 releases statement on Brexit talks
2.41pm update: Downing Street releases statement on Brexit talks
The government has released a statement about the Brexit discussions.
It read: “Both sides presented their positions as set out in the EU mandate and in the document ‘The Future Relationship with the EU – The UK’s Approach to Negotiations’ (CP211).
“The UK’s team made clear that on 1 January 2021 the UK would regain its economic and political independence in full, and that the future relationship would need to reflect that reality.
“Discussions in some areas identified a degree of common understanding of the ground that future talks could cover.
“In other areas, notably fisheries, governance and dispute settlement, and the so-called “level playing field”, there were, as expected, significant differences.
“The next negotiating round will take place on 18-20 March in London. The UK expects to table a number of legal texts, including a draft FTA, beforehand.”
1.38pm update: No 10 hits back at Ursula von der Leyen
Following her claims that the UK must make up its mind on Brexit, No10 has released a statement insisting the UK’s position has been clear.
It read: “I think the UK has made up its mind very decisively and has been very clear about what it wants from its future relationship with the EU.”
1.06pm update: Germany fears loss of UK trade
Felix Schoenherr, a German politician who is a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, has expressed his fear over the loss of UK trade.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “It’s mainly exports, of course the UK is an important market, so we are dependent on that trade relationship as well as our trade with the US, also to China. So this is an issue.
“Apart from that, travel restrictions may be a thing for students and academics who want to go to the UK, but really this is the danger of losing a market we have good trade with.
“I think from a German economic perspective the UK is a very important trade partner, and we should try to get an agreement on both sides.”
Brexit LIVE: Germany fears loss of UK trade
12.10pm update: Ursula von der Leyen a bit “fingers-in-ears given UK position”
Ms von der Leyen’s criticism of the UK’s Brexit position has been met with widespread condemnation.
Deputy political editor for the MailOnline, Jack Maidment, said: “Ursula von der Leyen says UK must ‘make up its mind’ on what it wants in Brexit trade talks.
“Says if UK doesn’t want to play by EU rules it ‘will be more distant’ and ‘more difficult’ for UK to access the single market’.
“Which all feels a bit fingers-in-ears given UK position.”
11.39am update: Rupert Lowe ridicules Ursula von der Leyen’s Brexit speech
A former Brexit Party MEP for the West Midlands, Rupert Lowe, has criticised Ms von der Leyen’s comments on the UK’s uncertain Brexit stance.
He said: “Strange for von der Leyen to be criticising the UK for not making our mind up.
“British Gov have made it quite clear we want no ECJ, no level-playing field and to be treated as ‘sovereign equals’.
“Just because she doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!”
Brexit LIVE: Brexit Day timeline
11am update: Von der Leyen accused of confusing Brexit speech
In a press conference today, the European Commission President urged the UK to “make up” its mind on what it wants for a post-Brexit future.
However, several commentators have said the UK has been clear of its intent to break away from the EU’s regulations and replicate a trade agreement similar to that of Canada.
Following her comments, The Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent, James Crisp, insisted she must “update” her message.
He said: “I think she needs to update her messaging – this make up your mind gibberish is so last year.”
10.21am update: Ursula von der Leyen comments on Brexit
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, held a press conference today where she addressed the coronavirus outbreak and Brexit.
Commenting on the Brexit trade deal, she said: “We will make as much as we can but the truth is also that our partnership will be different.
“The UK will be a third country and the EU will continue to forge its path in today’s world on its own.”
Ursula von der Leyen drew widespread criticism for saying the UK should ‘make up its mind’ on Brexit
Brexit LIVE: Urusla von der Leyen gives an update on Brexit talks
9.41am update: Truckers to face huge amount of paperwork as UK drops fast-track checks
Haulage and shipping industries face a mountain of paperwork after the government ignored advice to request security waivers, The Daily Telegraph reports.
British negotiators rejected participation in the EU’s safety and security zone, according to the report.
This move is set to increase border delays despite warnings from industry experts.
8.34am update: Lib Dem Brexit policy “a big mistake”
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran criticised her party’s Brexit policy on Sunday.
Announcing her bid to become the next leader of the party, Ms Moran described her party’s policy to revoke Brexit as an error.
Brexit LIVE: EU-UK trade negotiations
8.12am update: Brexit negotiations at risk
BBC Newsnight policy editor Lewis Goodall said the “chances of an extension request by July has to be rising” due to the increase in cases of coronavirus.
Boris Johnson has said he will not request an extension to the Brexit transition which will end on December 31, 2020.
As it stands, the deadline for extending the transition period is the end of July.
Mr Goodall said an extension could be possible due to “public concern”.
He said: “They will be acutely aware that public concern over virus much greater than its concern over the extension of a transition period about which they’re only vaguely aware.
“If the crisis approaches the severity of migration crisis plus crash for the EU, they will be clamouring for an extension as well. Both sides will run out of bandwidth or capacity to absorb further supply shocks.”
8.04am update: EU cancelled non-essential engagements
Only crucial meetings will be held by the EU council this week amid fears caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
In health advice circulated by the bloc, delegates have been advised to “respect personal hygiene” and to “avoid handshakes and kisses” during meetings this week.
7.45am update: Keir Starmer refuses to rule out rejoining the EU
Speaking at the Labour leadership hustings on Sunday, Sir Keir insisted the issue was not for the “immediate future”.
He added: “I don’t think it’s a priority for now and the immediate future”.
When asked to explicitly rule it out, he refused.
When questioned on his stance, he said it was for “our kids to decide what our future relationship is”.