Brexit: Negotiators to enter ‘extra mile’ Brexit talks

Michel Barnier
The EU’s Michel Barnier is due to restart negotiations with the UK team on Monday.

Talks over a post-Brexit trade agreement will resume later, after the UK and EU agreed to “go the extra mile” in search of a breakthrough.

It comes after the two sides agreed that negotiations should continue beyond a self-imposed Sunday deadline.

PM Boris Johnson has warned the sides remain “very far apart” in key areas, but “where there’s life there’s hope”.

Time is fast running out to finalise an agreement before the UK’s Brexit transition ends in just over two weeks.

The decision to keep talking came after Mr Johnson discussed “major unresolved topics” with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday.

A new deadline for a decision has not been set – but the ultimate deadline comes on 31 December, when the UK stops following EU trading rules.

Without a trade deal in place by then, the two sides would begin trading on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, meaning taxes – or tariffs – would be introduced, potentially raising the cost of imported goods such as food.

Fishing rights, “level playing field” rules on how far the UK should be able to diverge from EU laws, and how any agreement should be policed remain the major stumbling blocks.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier will resume talks with his UK counterpart Lord Frost later, after briefing ambassadors of EU member states.

According to an EU source, Mr. Barnier is believed to have told them talks over a level playing field remained hard, but were moving towards an agreement.

He is also said to have told them a wider deal could fall into place if a route towards an agreement on fishing rights can be identified.

Lord Frost
image captionLord Frost has said a deal is only possible if it “fully respects UK sovereignty”.

Ahead of the negotiators meeting in Brussels, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the UK was “not going to be walking away from these talks,” although the UK would not continue negotiations beyond the 31 December deadline.

However he added “quite significant progress” would be required in a number of areas for an agreement to be reached.

After speaking with the UK PM on Sunday, Mrs von der Leyen said it was “responsible at this point to go the extra mile,” despite a series of previously missed deadlines to reach a deal.

Mr. Johnson said “where there is life, there is hope”, and that the UK “certainly won’t be walking away from the talks”.

But he added: “I’ve got to repeat the most likely thing now is of course that we have to get ready for WTO terms.”

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves welcomed the continuation of the talks and said the worst outcome would be to “crash out with no deal whatsoever on 1 January”.

2px presentational grey line

The basics

  • Brexit happened but rules didn’t change at once: The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020, but leaders needed time to negotiate a deal for life afterwards – they got 11 months.
  • Talks are happening: The UK and the EU have until 31 December 2020 to agree a trade deal as well as other things, such as fishing rights.
  • If there is no deal: Border checks and taxes will be introduced for goods traveling between the UK and the EU. But deal or no deal, we will still see changes.

What happens next with Brexit?

2px presentational grey line

This new phase of the talks is expected to focus on how close the UK should stick to EU economic rules in the future.

The EU is determined to prevent the UK from gaining what it sees as an unfair advantage of having tariff-free access to its markets – not paying taxes on goods being bought and sold – while setting its own standards on products, employment rights, and business subsidies.

The EU is reported to have dropped the idea of a formal mechanism to ensure both sides keep up with each other’s standards and is now prepared to accept UK divergence – provided there are safeguards to prevent unfair competition.

Fishing rights is another major area of disagreement, with the EU warning that without access to UK waters for EU fleets, UK fishermen will no longer get special access to EU markets to sell their goods.

But the UK argues that what goes on in its own waters, and its wider business rules, should be under its control as a sovereign country.

2px presentational grey line
Analysis box by Katya Adler, Europe editor

What does it mean in Brexit trade deal terms “to go the extra mile”?

That’s the distance the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, have promised to travel over the next days.

But will the road take them to deal or no-deal? And who will compromise on what to get there?

EU contacts close to the talks say both sides are being constructive. They insist negotiations aren’t simply continuing because neither the EU nor the government want to be blamed in a no-deal scenario and prefer not to walk away first.

Remember: what’s said in front of the cameras is only part of the picture.

We aren’t behind the scenes in the negotiating room or on the closed calls between Mr. Johnson and Ms von der Leyen.

But however long these talks rumble on, ultimately neither the government nor the EU, will sign up to a deal if they can’t claim it as a victory.

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Michel Barnier
The EU’s Michel Barnier is due to restart negotiations with the UK team on Monday.

Talks over a post-Brexit trade agreement will resume later, after the UK and EU agreed to “go the extra mile” in search of a breakthrough.

It comes after the two sides agreed that negotiations should continue beyond a self-imposed Sunday deadline.

PM Boris Johnson has warned the sides remain “very far apart” in key areas, but “where there’s life there’s hope”.

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Time is fast running out to finalise an agreement before the UK’s Brexit transition ends in just over two weeks.

The decision to keep talking came after Mr Johnson discussed “major unresolved topics” with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday.

A new deadline for a decision has not been set – but the ultimate deadline comes on 31 December, when the UK stops following EU trading rules.

Without a trade deal in place by then, the two sides would begin trading on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, meaning taxes – or tariffs – would be introduced, potentially raising the cost of imported goods such as food.

Fishing rights, “level playing field” rules on how far the UK should be able to diverge from EU laws, and how any agreement should be policed remain the major stumbling blocks.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier will resume talks with his UK counterpart Lord Frost later, after briefing ambassadors of EU member states.

According to an EU source, Mr. Barnier is believed to have told them talks over a level playing field remained hard, but were moving towards an agreement.

He is also said to have told them a wider deal could fall into place if a route towards an agreement on fishing rights can be identified.

Lord Frost
image captionLord Frost has said a deal is only possible if it “fully respects UK sovereignty”.

Ahead of the negotiators meeting in Brussels, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the UK was “not going to be walking away from these talks,” although the UK would not continue negotiations beyond the 31 December deadline.

However he added “quite significant progress” would be required in a number of areas for an agreement to be reached.

After speaking with the UK PM on Sunday, Mrs von der Leyen said it was “responsible at this point to go the extra mile,” despite a series of previously missed deadlines to reach a deal.

Mr. Johnson said “where there is life, there is hope”, and that the UK “certainly won’t be walking away from the talks”.

But he added: “I’ve got to repeat the most likely thing now is of course that we have to get ready for WTO terms.”

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves welcomed the continuation of the talks and said the worst outcome would be to “crash out with no deal whatsoever on 1 January”.

2px presentational grey line

The basics

What happens next with Brexit?

2px presentational grey line

This new phase of the talks is expected to focus on how close the UK should stick to EU economic rules in the future.

The EU is determined to prevent the UK from gaining what it sees as an unfair advantage of having tariff-free access to its markets – not paying taxes on goods being bought and sold – while setting its own standards on products, employment rights, and business subsidies.

The EU is reported to have dropped the idea of a formal mechanism to ensure both sides keep up with each other’s standards and is now prepared to accept UK divergence – provided there are safeguards to prevent unfair competition.

Fishing rights is another major area of disagreement, with the EU warning that without access to UK waters for EU fleets, UK fishermen will no longer get special access to EU markets to sell their goods.

But the UK argues that what goes on in its own waters, and its wider business rules, should be under its control as a sovereign country.

2px presentational grey line
Analysis box by Katya Adler, Europe editor

What does it mean in Brexit trade deal terms “to go the extra mile”?

That’s the distance the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and the European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, have promised to travel over the next days.

But will the road take them to deal or no-deal? And who will compromise on what to get there?

EU contacts close to the talks say both sides are being constructive. They insist negotiations aren’t simply continuing because neither the EU nor the government want to be blamed in a no-deal scenario and prefer not to walk away first.

Remember: what’s said in front of the cameras is only part of the picture.

We aren’t behind the scenes in the negotiating room or on the closed calls between Mr. Johnson and Ms von der Leyen.

But however long these talks rumble on, ultimately neither the government nor the EU, will sign up to a deal if they can’t claim it as a victory.