Boris doesn’t want a deal! Former EU diplomat says today’s VDL meeting is just for show

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Sir Ivan Rogers, the former UK ambassador to the EU, has suggested Boris Johnson is firmly pursuing a no deal Brexit. The former senior civil servant has claimed the only reason the Prime Minister is heading to Brussels today is for show, when in fact Mr Johnson doesn’t “care about a deal”.

Mr Rogers said many in Brussels believed UK Prime Minister was not interested in securing a deal with them and today’s visit with Ursula von der Leyen was just theatre.

The former diplomat said many in Europe believe this evening’s meeting was “just a necessary step in the framing of the blame game for a ‘no deal’ outcome”.

Mr Rogers told Politico: “If I were advising someone who actively wanted a deal, I would have been advising him to get heavily engaged in serious face-to-face discussions at top level very much earlier.

“If I were advising someone who did not much care about a deal but wanted to be seen by the British public to have tried his utmost, then I might be doing my first serious face-to-face meeting with the Commission president this week.”

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Mr Johnson will fly to Brussels after PMQs this afternoon, in an attempt to reach a breakthrough on a post-Brexit trade deal with the bloc.

The Prime Minister and Ms Von der Leyen will try to salvage negotiations, after months of deadlock.

Key divergences remain on fisheries, the level playing field and state subsidies.

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Ms von der Leyen said she looked forward to welcoming Mr Johnson, and wrote on Twitter: “We will continue our discussion on the Partnership Agreement.”

No10 hopes tonight’s dinner will allow trade talks to resume.

A UK Government source said: “It’s clear that some political impetus will be required for the talks to make any more progress.

“If we can make progress at a political level it may allow Lord Frost and his team to resume negotiations over the coming days.”

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Mr Johnson said trade talks with the bloc were proving “very tricky” but said he hoped the “power of sweet reason” would triumph.

Earlier this week the UK Government dropped controversial plans that would allow ministers to break international law and override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The move has been viewed as an olive branch and an attempt to get a deal over the line before the UK leaves the EU transition period at the end of the year.

Sir Ivan Rogers quit the civil service in January 2017, just four days after stepping down from his post as the UK’s ambassador to the EU.

His shock resignation came after the diplomat was criticised by Tory Brexiteers for warning it might take as long as a decade for the UK to fully break from the EU.

He was criticised for “pessimism” over Brexit.

A Government spokeswoman said at the time: “Sir Ivan Rogers has resigned a few months early as UK permanent representative to the European Union.

“Sir Ivan has taken this decision now to enable a successor to be appointed before the UK invokes Article 50 by the end of March. We are grateful for his work and commitment over the last three years.”

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