Brexit: EU leaders drop pledge to 'intensify' trade talks as Boris Johnson threatens walk-out

Jon Stone
·1-min read

EU leaders have dropped a pledge to "intensify" Brexit negotiations after this week's summit, in signs that Brussels is prepared to call Boris Johnson's bluff on his threat to walk away from trade talks.

A leaked draft of conclusions prepared by officials ahead of the Thursday meeting had urged Michel Barnier to step up the pace of negotiations to reach a deal.

But a new draft seen by The Independent, drawn up after further behind the scenes negotiation, has a downgraded Brexit section with all reference to intensification removed.

The conclusions now simply say that the "European Council invites the Unionʼs chief negotiator to continue negotiations in the coming weeks, and calls on the UK to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible".

Mr Johnson last night spoke with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and her Council counterpart Charles Michel, telling them he was disappointed at the progress so far.

The prime minister said he would wait until after the summit had concluded on Friday to decide whether he would walk out of talks and prompt a no-deal. He had previously said in September that the summit was a deadline for reaching an agreement.

The change to the draft conclusions, which are not yet final and could be changed further by leaders later on Thursday, suggests hawks on the European Council have been successful in arguing for firmer treatment of Britain – even if only in tone.

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