The UK and the EU have agreed to “dial down the rhetoric” over Brexit in an effort to open up space for a deal, it has emerged.
Brussels and London are expected to produce legal texts of their negotiating positions next week, with diplomatic sources claiming both sides have agreed to “lower the temperature” to enable the texts to be considered in detail to assess the scale of the divergence.
“The moment you see the legal texts, that’s when you see how good or bad things really are,” one insider said.
Next week’s Brexit talks in London have been cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak, but in a joint statement both sides said they were looking at alternative options, such as teleconferencing.
“Given the latest Covid-19 developments, UK and EU negotiators have today jointly decided not to hold next week’s round of negotiations in London, in the form originally scheduled,” a joint UK and EU statement said on Thursday.
“Both sides are currently exploring alternative ways to continue discussions, including if possible the use of video conferences.”
While the coronavirus outbreak has pushed Brexit out of the spotlight, negotiators are concerned that behind-the-scenes efforts must continue if they are to seal the outline of a deal before June.
Four areas, including fisheries and crime and justice, have already been identified as the areas of deepest conflict – with little hope of progress in the second round of talks.
On Northern Ireland, the EU has made it clear the onus is on the UK to come up with a plan to implement the controversial special arrangements, which include a trade barrier down the Irish Sea. The expectation is that the UK will come to the inaugural meeting of the EU-UK joint committee meeting on 30 March with its first such proposals.
“The ball is now in the UK court,” one source said. “It is up to the UK to tell us how they are going to implement this.”
Read more via The Guardian