Turbot-charged trade talks? Johnson and von der Leyen dine on fish during post-Brexit trade discussions

Fish and Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen
Fish is on the menu for Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen. Credit: Creative Commons/goodiesfood/PA

In a twist of Brexit irony, Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen dined on fish as they discussed how to resolve the argument over the UK's fishing waters, which has presented a huge stumbling block in trade negotiations.

The two leaders met in Brussels to discuss, over a fish supper, whether a trade deal between the UK and EU could be agreed before the Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

It was the prime minister's plan to turbot-charge talks in discussions with Ms von der Leyen after chief negotiators were unable to reach an agreement on three issues: fisheries, the so-called level-playing-field and governance of the deal.

The Commission’s menu of pumpkin soup and scallops to start, followed by a main course of steamed turbot, mashed potatoes with wasabi and vegetables, will be seen as a pointed gesture by some but a sign that it has a sense of humour by others.

For pudding they ate pavlova with exotic fruit and coconut sorbet, but the Commission stopped short of serving another popular meringue-and-cream dessert, the Eton Mess, believed to originate from the prime minister’s alma mater.

The starter may invoke memories of the “scallop wars” in 2018 when British and French fishing fleets clashed in a dispute about access to fishing grounds in the Baie de Seine.

But the fish-themed menu will certainly remind Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen of the headache they face in reaching an agreement on access to the UK’s waters after December 31.