The European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen and the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson have set another deadline for their negotiation teams to clinch a trade deal, leaving, however, European and British lawmakers with limited time to scrutinise and ratify any possible agreement.
It is the second time the two leaders are trying to salvage the talks, pushing for a deal that will define their future relations after the UK formally left the bloc in January. Last week, the two sides gave until Sunday to resolve their differences, including EU’s fishing access to British waters, the competition field for businesses and governance. However, talks in Brussels have been fruitless so far, and should the EU and UK fail to strike a deal before the transition period comes to an end, on December 31, they will trade on the terms foreseen by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Yet, von der Leyen and Johnson seem determined to “go to the extra mile,” tasking once more their chief Brexit negotiators, Michel Barnier and his British counterpart, David Frost, to resume the talks, “even at this late stage.”
“Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over, we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile,” the two sides said in a joint statement following Monday’s phone call.
While it remains unclear whether this extra mile could lead to a breakthrough in talks, EU’s negotiator tweeted on Monday that “It is our responsibility to give the talks every chance of success.”
“Never before has such a comprehensive agreement (trade, energy, fisheries, transport, police & judicial cooperation, etc) been negotiated so transparently and in such little time,” his post further reads.
Barnier on Monday morning briefed the bloc’s ambassadors over the progress in bilateral talks during a COREPER meeting, during which, he implied that the number of key issues blocking the deal were reduced from three to two: competition and fisheries.
“This deal, it is still possible,” EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said.