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More than three hours talking Brexit — and the two sides agree to more talks.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen set a new deadline for a Brexit deal but failed to break the deadlock in trade negotiations after a marathon dinner meeting Wednesday.
The pair agreed at the working dinner in Brussels that negotiations would continue and that a “firm decision” about the future of the talks should be taken by Sunday, according to a senior Downing Street official.
There are just over three weeks until the Brexit transition period ends, at which point Britain and the EU will trade under World Trade Organization rules if there is no deal. That means tariffs on goods crossing the border and other trade barriers, including a loss of access to U.K. waters for EU fishing boats.
Johnson and von der Leyen held an initial meeting on Wednesday evening with their respective chief negotiators, David Frost and Michel Barnier, before sitting down to a three-course meal with other aides. All in all the conversation lasted more than three hours.
The U.K. official said the two sides had a “frank discussion” but failed to break the impasse. “Very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged,” the official said. “The PM and VDL agreed to further discussions over the next few days between their negotiating teams. The PM does not want to leave any route to a possible deal untested. The PM and VDL agreed that by Sunday a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks.”
In a separate statement, von der Leyen said: “We had a lively and interesting discussion on the state of play across the list of outstanding issues.