Here are the main lines from the Downing Street lobby briefing.
The prime minister’s spokesman said Boris Johnson would shortly take a decision about the next steps in the UK-EU trade talks. In September Johnson set 15 October – tomorrow – as a deadline. He said that if there was no agreement by then, “I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.” Today his spokesman said:
Some progress has been made this week, primarily in technical areas of the negotiations, but there are still differences with fisheries being the starkest.
We need to get the substance settled and not having a common text to work from has made progress doubly difficult.
The prime minister’s September 7 statement was very clear about the significance of October 15.
He will need to take a decision on next steps following the European Council in the light of his conversation with President von der Leyen, and on advice from his negotiating team. I cannot prejudge what that decision will be.
The spokesman said the government wanted to reach a consensus with local leaders about moving their regions into the toughest tier 3 restrictions. But he did not rule out the government imposing tier 3 on places if necessary. He said:
We want to create the maximum possible local consensus behind what would be the most severe kind of local actions. We continue to work with local leaders on that.
But the spokesman added: “The government does have the ability to impose measures if it was felt that was what was needed to reduce transmission and to protect the NHS.”
The spokesman stressed that the government was not pinning all its hopes on the arrival of a vaccine. The head of the Oxford University vaccine trial team has said that, even if the trial is successful, people will still need to socially distance until next summer. Asked about this, the spokesman said the government was concentrating on other measures too. He said:
We are leading efforts on development of a vaccine and also – to maximise our opportunities to detect, treat and protect ourselves against the virus – we are also supporting the development of safe and effective treatments and tests.
We can’t, obviously, pin our hopes on a vaccine but we are doing everything possible both to develop a vaccine but also to develop those other treatments which can help to reduce the symptoms of coronavirus and to save lives.