Seeking Brexit breakthrough, UK’s Johnson, EU chief to hold talks

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EU chief Ursula von der Leyen will hold video talks with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday as they seek a breakthrough in post-Brexit trade negotiations.

The two leaders will meet online in the afternoon, von der Leyen’s spokesman Eric Mamer said on Twitter, for “stock-taking of negotiations and discussion of next steps.”

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The meeting, also confirmed by London, will take place after the end of the last round of scheduled talks on forging future relations between Britain and the European Union.

EU and UK negotiators Michel Barnier and David Frost are meeting in Brussels on Friday to close out the round of negotiations in which no major breakthrough is expected.

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The von der Leyen-Johnson call also follows the launch of a legal proceeding by Brussels in response to the British government’s attempt to overturn parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

On Tuesday, British MPs backed a bill to regulate the UK’s internal market from January 1, when Britain completes its post-Brexit transition period and leaves the EU single market and customs union.

If Britain does not back down, the infringement procedure could go all the way to the European Court of Justice, which would be able to impose large fines.

Johnson has pushed on with the legislation -- despite concerns in his own party and a warning from Washington that it puts Irish peace at risk.

The row over the bill has not scuppered the trade talks, but dampened hopes that a deal can be reached in time for a planned EU summit on October 15.

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