Post-Brexit trade talks will continue in Brussels next week after both sides vowed to “go the extra mile” to close a last minute deal, however Boris Johnson has also said the two sides are “very far apart” and that no-deal is now the most likely option.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she had a “constructive and useful phone call with Boris Johnson” this afternoon.
Today had been talked up by the UK and EU as the absolute final deadline, after many previous deadlines had been rolled over in recent weeks.
“We discussed the major unsolved topics,” Von der Leyen said.
“Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over the recent days and despite the exhaustion…despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over, we both think it is responsible a this point in time to go the extra mile…to see whether an agreement can be reached even at this late stage.”
Johnson told Sky News that the most likely scenario now is a no-deal Brexit, but “where there is life there is hope”.
“We’re going to keep going talking to see what we can do,” he said.
“The UK won’t be walking away from talks.”
Fears of a no-deal Brexit have risen dramatically over the past week as both sides continue to say they are far apart in negotiations.
Von der Leyen reportedly told EU leaders on Friday that there was now a “higher probability for no-deal than deal”.
Future fisheries arrangements, business subsidy regulations as a part of level playing field talks and the overall governance of the deal are the three largest barriers to an agreement.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC this morning that von der Leyen had to today make compromises on fisheries and level playing field for Brexit talks to continue.
He said: “Will the EU move on the two key issues of level playing field and fisheries? If there is the will to do that, there is progress to be made.
“The bar is quite high for us to keep talking – we would need a political commitment to move on those two key issues.”
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier and chief UK negotiator Lord David Frost have been wrangling over how much access it retains to the UK’s fishing waters next year.
It has been rumoured that the UK only want the EU to keep about 20 per cent of the fish it was allocated pre-Brexit, while the EU want closer to 80 per cent.
The EU is also asking the UK to sign up to its regulatory standards on things like labour and environmental laws and state subsidy regulations in what is known as a level playing field.
The UK has baulked at demands that the country would have to be locked into the EU’s laws long-term, which could include future changes that have not even been proposed yet.
Brussels says it is necessary for UK and EU businesses to not have a competitive advantage over each other if they are going to trade on a tariff-free basis.