Britain and the European Union have agreed to “go the extra mile” in talks on post-Brexit trade relations, with just two and half weeks left before the existing trading arrangement is set to expire on Dec. 31.
Briefing the media in Brussels on Sunday lunchtime, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she has had “a constructive and useful phone call” with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
We had a useful call with @BorisJohnson this morning.
We agreed that talks will continue.https://t.co/rZpN4PmS1i
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 13, 2020
“Our negotiation teams have been working day and night over the recent days and despite the exhaustion, after almost one year of negotiations and despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over, we both think that it is responsible at this point in time to go the extra mile,” she said.
“We have accordingly mandated our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can be reached even at this late stage,” she said, adding that the negotiations would continue in Brussels.
Shortly after the EU briefing, the British government released an almost identical statement.
Johnson and von der Leyen had set Sunday as the deadline for a breakthrough in the talks, after they failed to break the deadlock at a face-to-face meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
Johnson said on Thursday there was a “strong possibility” that the UK will not be able to reach a trade deal by the end of the year, and urged businesses and the public to boost preparations for a “no-deal” scenario.
The EU has set out a series of “targeted contingency measures” in preparation for the disruption a “no-deal” Brexit would cause.
The measures were intended to provide “a short-term fix to provide basic connectivity in air and road transport for six months,” von der Leyen said on Friday.
The UK officially left the EU in January 2020, but trading arrangements such as tariffs and quotas have remained unchanged during the Brexit transition period, which will end on Dec. 31.
If no trade deal with the EU is reached by then, Britain will default to trading with the 27 EU countries under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) told Parliament on Tuesday that the UK’s food supply chain could face disruption when the Brexit transition period ends.
Lily Zhou and Reuters contributed to this report.