Brexit: ‘Final throw of the dice’ as trade talks resume

Publishedduration3 hours ago

image copyrightEPA/YVES HERMAN / POOL

image captionUK negotiator Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier will meet in Brussels later

Crucial negotiations to secure a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the EU are to resume later.

UK chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost will meet EU counterpart Michel Barnier in Brussels to try to bridge the two sides’ “significant differences”.

A UK source told the BBC it could be the “final throw of the dice” to agree a deal before the end of the year.

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said the mood was downbeat, but both sides still wanted a deal.

He quoted a UK government insider as saying: “Often the darkest hour comes just before dawn.”

Sunday’s meeting comes after talks between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen failed to deliver agreement.

The pair spoke on the phone for an hour on Saturday but failed to break the deadlock on “critical issues”.

In a joint statement issued afterwards they said fishing rights, competition rules and how any deal would be enforced were still causing problems.

They added: “Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved.”

However, Mr Johnson and Ms Von der Leyen said they “welcomed the fact that progress has been achieved in many areas”.

Both have agreed to talk again on Monday evening.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said the statements signalled “clearly” that a trade deal is out of reach right now, and “if no-one budges in the next few days, it’s simply not going to happen”.

Areas of disagreement

Lord Frost and his team of negotiators are due to travel back to Brussels on Sunday, where they will to try to work through areas of disagreement with their EU opposite numbers.

One of these is over access to UK waters by the EU’s fishing fleets.

Another is what measures there should be to ensure a “level playing field” for businesses on both sides of the Channel.

media captionUrsula Von Der Leyen: ‘Significant differences remain’ in Brexit trade deal

Also outstanding is any consensus on how any new agreements would be enforced, and about the role of the European Court of Justice.

If a deal is not reached, border checks and taxes will be introduced for goods travelling between the UK and the EU.

Brexit – The basics

  • Brexit happened but rules didn’t change at once: The UK left the European Union on 31 January but leaders needed time to negotiate a deal for life afterwards – they got 11 months.
  • Talks are on again: The UK and the EU have until 31 December to agree a trade deal as well as other things,

 »