Johnson and von der Leyen to hold phone update on UK-EU trade talks

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are due to speak by phone on Saturday to discuss the state-of-play in the trade negotiations.

Downing Street said the conversation would allow the leaders to “take stock” of the negotiations.

Briefings between the two leaders are seen as key moments in the talks, with the last conversation in October seeing discussions “intensified” before a fallout after the European Council meeting briefly derailed the negotiations.

A Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister will speak to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tomorrow afternoon to take stock of the UK-EU negotiations.”

UK chief negotiator Lord Frost was in the Belgian capital to negotiate face-to-face with his European Union counterpart Michel Barnier earlier this week.

Meetings between the pair are due to continue next week after both agreed there continued to be gaps in the UK and the bloc’s position.

After talks finished on Wednesday, Mr Barnier briefed MEPs and EU diplomats that there were “very serious divergences” still.

He said the main stumbling blocks continued to be around the “level playing field” aimed at preventing unfair competition on areas including state subsidies, fisheries policy and the governance of any deal.

Lord Frost, commenting afterwards, said progress had been made during two weeks of intensive talks but “wide divergences remain on some core issues”.