UK, EU Leaders Agree to Resume Brexit Trade Talks on Sunday

December 5, 2020 Updated: December 5, 2020

Britain and the European Union have agreed to restart their talks on post-Brexit trade, one day after the talks were paused due to “significant divergences.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have instructed their chief negotiators to reconvene in Brussels on Sunday, the two leaders said after a telephone conversation on Saturday afternoon.

In a joint statement issued after the phone call, Johnson and von der Leyen welcomed “the fact that progress has been achieved in many areas.”

“Nevertheless, significant differences remain on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries,” they said, adding that “both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved.”

“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.”

The two leaders agreed to speak again on Monday evening.

Brexit
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) listens to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ahead of their meeting inside 10 Downing Street, in central London, UK, on Jan. 8, 2020. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Commenting on Twitter, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier wrote, “We will see if there is a way forward. Work continues tomorrow.”

Barnier and UK chief negotiator David Frost decided to pause the talks on Friday evening, because “the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.”

They said they needed to brief their respective leaders on the state of play of the negotiations.

The UK officially pulled out of the EU in January but entered a transition period in which trading arrangements—such as tariffs and quotas—remained unaltered. That transition ends at midnight on Dec. 31.

If no trade deal with the EU is reached by then, Britain would by default need to trade with the 27 EU countries under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

UK negotiators are demanding that the deal must respect the sovereignty that many Brexit voters felt was undermined by EU membership. However, the EU is unwilling to set up a deal too similar to deals with far-flung nations such as Canada, saying that the proximity of the UK brings different dynamics into play.

Simon Veazey contributed to this report.