British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet EU chiefs by video link Monday to try to breathe new life into stalled post-Brexit trade talks, with both sides entrenched in long-held positions.
The conference with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel will review progress in the talks on future EU/UK relations
It is the first time Mr Johnson has personally taken part in the talks which began in March, just weeks after Britain left the European Union on January 31 after 47 years in the European project.
While expectations are low for the long-planned meeting, the unpredictable Mr Johnson, who has recently recovered from a bout with the coronavirus, has EU negotiators on the lookout for any potential surprises.
Britain and the EU have held four rounds of talks on how to organize their ties after December 31, when the UK leaves the single market and stops adhering to Brussels' rules after an 11-month transition.
So far they have achieved little, giving Monday's meeting added significance. London and Brussels have already agreed to intensify negotiations, with mainly in-person talks through July and August.
Talks between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost have mostly taken place virtually due to the coronavirus
On Friday, Britain formally declared that it would not seek to extend the post-Brexit transition by one or two years, something it could have done according to the terms of the divorce deal Mr Johnson signed last year.
Britain has firmly rejected calls by the EU that it commit to European standards overseen by EU law to keep open access to the single market - something Brussels says would maintain a level playing field.
On Friday, the UK said that whatever the outcome of the talks, British customs officers would not be ready to deal with new rules at their ports or borders on January 1. UK border checks will therefore be applied with a light-touch for the first months after the new year as Britain readies itself for post-Brexit trade ties.