- Chief negotiators from the UK and EU are set to continue talks in Brussels, as the prime minister, Boris Johnson, pushes for a Brexit deal before the end of the year.
- Johnson and the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, spoke by phone on Saturday, agreeing “progress has been achieved in many areas,” the two said in a joint statement.
- But negotiators remained far apart on three “significant” issues, including creating a “level playing field” for the annual $1 trillion in UK-EU trade.
- Odds for a deal by the end of December are “no better than 50-50,” a senior UK official told The Sunday Times.
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Once again on Sunday, EU-UK trade negotiators will try to reach an agreement over “significant” differences in Brussels, with the prime minister, Boris Johnson, pushing for a Brexit deal before Britain’s 11-month transition period out of the union comes to a close.
Johnson and the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke on the phone on Saturday, agreeing “progress has been achieved in many areas,” the two said in a joint statement.
But the two sides remained far apart on three “significant” issues: fishing boundaries off the UK coast, putting in place governance, and creating a “level playing field.”
“Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved,” Johnson and von der Leyen said.
They added: “Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved.”
Sunday’s negotiations are the latest in an ongoing effort to put a deal for Britain’s full EU exit in place. The UK left the EU officially on January 31, but has been in a transition period that ends December 31.
Without a deal in place, the UK at the end of the year would complete its transition out of the EU’s trade rules without protections in place for businesses. But talks on Friday had broken down over the the three issues, and both sides decided to “pause” negotiations, said Michael Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, on Twitter.
A senior official close to Johnson said odds of a Brexit deal before the transition period comes to a close are now “no better than 50-50,” according to a report on from The Sunday Times. Thirteen cabinet members reportedly told Johnson that they’d support a no-deal Brexit if the talks didn’t reach a resolution.
Late Saturday, Barnier said: “We will see if there is a way forward. Work continues tomorrow.”
Johnson and von der Leyen said they plan to speak again Monday evening.
Brexit talks weren’t expected to have an impact on the UK’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of whether a deal is struck, according to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Even without a deal, “we are ready,” June Raine, MHRA’s head, told the BBC on Sunday, according to Reuters.
“We’ve practised, we are ready, we are fully prepared for any possible outcome,” she reportedly said.