The UK and the European Commission have failed to reach an agreement on a trade deal for Brexit.
President Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson have issued a joint statement confirming that no deal has been struck after an hour’s call.
The leaders ordered their negotiators to resume trade talks on Sunday in a last-ditch effort to bridge the three ‘significant’ differences, creating a roadblock for compromise.
The prime minister and the head of the commission are in the crucial final phase of the Brexit negotiations
Leaders are said to be making the emergency call today in an attempt to unblock talks on a post-Brexit trade deal.
Time is running out for efforts to reach a trade deal before the December 31 deadline.
The two leaders cited three ‘significant’ differences in position that are slowing down ongoing negotiations as talks draw to a close.
In a joint statement made in a televised address on Saturday, she said the three “ key issues ” related to a level playing field, governance and fisheries.
The leaders’ statement said: “In a phone call today on the ongoing negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, we welcomed the progress made in many areas.
“Nevertheless, significant differences remain in three crucial areas: a level playing field, governance and fisheries.
Both sides underlined that no agreement would be feasible if these issues are not resolved.
“While we recognized the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that our negotiating teams should put even more effort into assessing whether they can be resolved.
“That is why we instruct our chief negotiators to meet again in Brussels tomorrow.
“We’ll speak again on Monday evening.”
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier added that talks with his British counterpart David Frost, scheduled for Sunday, show whether a new trade deal could be struck.
“We will see if there is a way forward. Work continues tomorrow,” Barnier said on Twitter.
Britain left the EU on January 31, but its trade, travel and business rules remained unchanged during a transition period ending December 31.
From that deadline, a new trade relationship is established – with or without a deal.
If the divorce ends without a deal, it will have repercussions at a time when Britain and Europe are grappling with the second wave of the coronavirus.
If no agreement is reached by December 31, the UK will adopt World Trade Organization rules, which means tariffs will have to be applied to EU imports and exports and quotas will be introduced.
British and EU negotiators interrupted trade talks on Friday to call on leaders to bridge their clashing positions.
Months of negotiations have failed to reach an agreement as neither side wants to compromise on fishing, fair competition guarantees and ways to resolve future disputes.
Sources from both sides told Reuters news agency that French demands regarding fishing rights in British waters remained an important issue.
On Friday, French Minister of Europe Charles Beaune publicly warned that the French side will veto if they were not satisfied with the terms.
It is a bottleneck to Brexit talks as EU leaders meet on Thursday for a two-day summit in Brussels.
It will be their last scheduled meeting of the year and the pressure is mounting to reach an agreement to be ready to sign off that day.
Both Houses of Parliament in the UK and the European Parliament will then have to ratify an agreement before the transition period ends on New Year’s Eve.
However, things are compounded by last-minute bickering in the UK.
The UK government is bringing legislation back to the House of Commons for a vote by MPs on Monday on whether or not to quash House of Lords amendments.
The amendments deleted provisions related to the Irish border, which were key elements of Mr Johnson’s internal market law in the UK.