Good morning. If you were listening to the Today programme this morning, at around 6.40am, you will have heard them play the wrong “Yesterday in Parliament”. It went on for about five minutes, because no one seemed to notice; a minister waffling on about the vaccine, opposition MPs denouncing the government as useless – often parliament all sounds the same.
And so it is with Brexit. Last night Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, had dinner in Brussels. This was supposed to decide whether or not a UK-EU trade deal would be possible. But instead all we got was an agreement for talks to continue, with Sunday now set as the apparent decision day. On a conservative count, this is at least the fourth such deadline we’ve had. Here is our overnight story.
But even the Sunday deadline is not quite set in stone. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, was doing interviews this morning and he admitted that it could slip. Asked if the talks could be extended beyond Sunday, he said: “You need some point of finality on negotiations.” But then he added:
I think it’s unlikely but I can’t categorically exclude it.
Raab also said that, for a deal to happen, there would have to be “substantial movement” from the EU. Referring to the dinner last night, he said:
It’s fair to say that whilst there was a good conversation last night, and it was frank and it was candid, the significant points of difference remain.
I don’t think we can keep going on at that pace without having some progress and some flexibility.
Particularly from the UK side, we look at the differences on fairly key points of principle – fairly narrow in scope, we are talking about fisheries, level playing field commitments, the EU’s attempt to lock us in to their rules – we need to see substantial movement.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: The ONS publishes its regular report on the impact of coronavirus on the economy.
9.30am: NHS England publishes its monthly waiting time figures.
10.30am: Penny Mordaunt, the Cabinet Office minister, answers a Commons urgent question on the Brexit trade talks.
11am: NHS test and trace publishes its weekly performance figures.
12pm: Downing Street is expected to hold its daily lobby briefing.
12.20pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions in the Scottish parliament.
After 1pm: MPs debate the Lords amendments to the internal market bill.
2pm: NHS England publishes its weekly Covid surveillance report.
2pm: Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, gives evidence to the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee.
I will be focusing on Brexit and non-Covid politics today. Mostly we will be covering the UK coronavirus developments in our global coronavirus live blog. It’s here.
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