Brexit negotiators have until Sunday to reach a deal after talks over dinner between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ended without a breakthrough.
Leaders agreed that talks are expected to continue in the coming days, despite significant differences remaining between the UK and the EU over what their future trade relationship should look like. By December 13, a firm decision will have to be made on the future of the negotiations, the two sides said.
Johnson’s team had hoped that a face-to-face meeting with von der Leyen would add political momentum to the process. But their discussion over a dinner of scallops and turbot in Brussels did not make it possible to break the deadlock. The pound has fallen.
“We understand each other’s positions,” von der Leyen tweeted after the meeting. “They stay very far away. Teams should come together immediately to try to resolve these issues. We will come to a decision by the end of the weekend.
Eight months of negotiations have so far failed to overcome the three main obstacles to a deal: disagreements over fishing rights, the governance of a deal, and fair competition rules for companies.
If a deal is not reached by the end of the year, businesses and consumers will be hit with additional costs and disruption as tariffs and quotas are imposed on trade with the most important trading partner. large and closest to UK.
Although Johnson wants to try all avenues to reach a deal on a trade deal, it is not clear that it will be possible to resolve the significant obstacles that remain, a senior UK official said.
We had a lively and interesting discussion on the status of the outstanding issues.
We understand each other’s positions. They stay very far away.
Teams should come together immediately to try to resolve these issues. We will come to a decision by the end of the weekend.pic.twitter.com/jG0Mfg35YX– Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen)December 9, 2020
“We will not neglect anything, we would like an agreement if it is possible, but we are not going to sacrifice the basic points of the democratic principle,” Foreign Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News on Thursday. “Come on Sunday, they must take stock and decide the future of the negotiations. There must be an end to all of this.
Von der Leyen is due to debrief the 27 EU leaders on the results of the dinner at a two-day summit that begins in Brussels on Thursday.
A person familiar with the EU’s position said the dinner was constructive and there was a good spirit between the two leaders and their officials. There is clearly a long way to go and the difficulties are real, but both sides seem to think a deal is possible, the person added.
The extent of the gap that still needs to be closed on the so-called level playing field for business was exposed on Wednesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the dispute over what happens if UK rules diverge from the EU could ruin a deal.
“If there are conditions on the British side that we cannot accept, then we are ready to go without a deal,” Merkel said.
Johnson responded by saying that no British leader could agree to the terms the EU wanted to impose on trade and fisheries rules.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister recalled Wednesday evening that any agreement must respect the independence and sovereignty of the United Kingdom.
–With help from Katharina Rosskopf, Charles Capel and Kitty Donaldson.
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