Ireland’s Europe minister Thomas Byrne has said he doubts the EU and UK are close to a breakthrough in trade talks.

He said he doubted that a planned conversation between Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula Ursula von der Leyen today would lead to a breakthrough in the EU-UK trade talks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are set to discuss the state-of-play of trade negotiations by phone, the EU said.

Downing Street said a phone conversation between Boris Johnson and the president of the European Commission would allow the leaders to “take stock” of the negotiations.

A Number 10 spokesman said on Friday: “The Prime Minister will speak to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen tomorrow afternoon to take stock of the UK-EU negotiations.”

UK chief negotiator Lord Frost was in the Belgian capital to speak face-to-face with his European Union counterpart Michel Barnier earlier this week.

Meetings between the pair are due to continue next week in London after both agreed there continued to be gaps in the UK and the bloc’s positions as the deadline for doing a deal edges closer.

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Despite the call, Thomas Byrne told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it is fair to say the talks between (EU chief negotiator) Michel Barnier and (UK chief negotiator, Lord) David Frost have been difficult, a huge range of issues have been discussed but there are big issues – fisheries, internal market issues, level-playing field. They are the big issues that still remain.

“I personally don’t expect that there would be major progress today but at the same time I think it is very good that the top two are talking, I think that’s really positive, but I don’t think we would expect ‘a moment’ at this particular point.”

Asked whether he thought it was time to sideline the negotiators and for the heads of state to engage with each other over a deal, Mr Byrne said: “No, Ursula von der Leyen, Michel Barnier… they speak on behalf of all Europeans, individual member states don’t – that’s the way the European Union works.

“At the moment there is a huge range of issues that need to be discussed at a technical level and they need to continue, I hope.

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“I hope that today’s discussion between Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson will progress that further.”

Yesterday, the Whitehall spending watchdog warned that UK trade with the EU faces “significant disruption” when the Brexit transition period ends at the end of the year regardless of whether there is a trade deal with Brussels.