David Frost, who leads the UK’s Taskforce Europe negotiating team, stressed the future relationship talks remained his top priority despite being handed the significant promotion. He will succeed departing Civil Service chief Sir Mark Sedwill in August, but Downing Street has already announced plans for a “transition period” to allow Mr Frost time to conclude a post-Brexit deal with Brussels. In their first face-to-face meeting since March, he told Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, a deal must be wrapped up quickly to allow him to start his new job.
However, Mr Frost insisted that he would remain in charge of Britain’s negotiating team until a deal is struck with the Brussels diplomat.
A UK Government spokesman said: “David Frost will remain Chief Negotiator for the EU talks until an agreement is reached or until the talks end – this will remain his first priority.
“As we have made clear we do not anyway wish for these talks to run on into the autumn.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added: “Prior to this announcement, we have already been very clear with the EU that the talks need to be concluded sooner rather than later, the talks cannot go on forever.
“We need to make sure businesses can prepare properly for what will happen at the end of the year.
“If negotiations go on too long into the autumn then they won’t know what to prepare for.”
Mr Frost will lead a team of 20 British negotiators during this week’s round of talks, the first since Mr Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to accelerate the process.
Accompanied by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador to the EU, he met with Mr Barnier at the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels.
The two sides will hold separate sessions across five days in a bid to break the deadlock.
Over five previous negotiating rounds, the EU has refused to budge from its hardline demands for a regulatory level-playing field, with a role for the European Court of Justice, and continued access to Britain’s fishing waters.
But the EU has vowed to be more flexible in order to strike a deal.
A Commission spokesman said: “Our overall message this week but also for the coming weeks and coming months is to intensify our negotiations in order to make progress in order to get a deal.
“Our goal is to make progress and to reach a deal.”
Brussels is undeterred by Mr Frost’s promotion and “fully concentrated on the negotiations”, the spokesman added.
After the first day of talks, Mr Barnier said: “We will make the most of our intensified talks over the coming weeks and months.
“Our goal: a comprehensive future relationship with the United Kingdom. The EU remains calm and united in its principles and values.”
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The UK has until June 30 to request an extension, of up to two years, to the post-Brexit transition period.
But Mr Frost reaffirmed the Government would be leaving the EU’s single market and customs union at the end of the year.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The EU have themselves also accepted there is not going to be any extension of the transition period.”