Talks resume today in an attempt to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal.
Britain and the EU will give a final push in the negotiation of a trade deal following crisis talks between Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
In a one-hour phone call, the two leaders agreed to order their negotiating teams to resume talks on Sunday in a last-ditch effort to see if they can resolve the remaining differences.
With time running out quickly for the Brexit transition period to end at the end of the month, UK sources warned that the process could still be completed without an agreement.
“This is the last roll of the dice,” said a source close to the negotiations.
“A fair deal must be struck that works for both sides, but this will only happen if the EU is willing to respect the fundamental principles of sovereignty and control.”
In a joint statement following their call, Mr. Johnson and Ms. Von der Leyen acknowledged that there were still “significant differences” regarding key issues of fishing rights, competition rules and the governance arrangements for each deal.
“Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible unless these issues are resolved,” they said.
“While we recognized the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that our negotiating teams needed to make even more effort to assess whether they could be resolved.
“That is why we instruct our chief negotiators to meet again in Brussels tomorrow. We speak again on Monday evening. “
The call came after Michel Barnier and Lord Frost – the lead negotiators for the two sides – announced on Friday that they were putting talks on “hiatus” after the latest round of negotiations failed to break through.
Lord Frost will now travel back to Brussels with a small team of negotiators on Sunday to try to resolve the remaining issues.
While in the past a lot of attention has been paid to the differences from fishing, UK sources have indicated that they would mainly look at the so-called “level playing field” rules on things like state aid to companies.
While the two sides have been circling the key issues for months, the statement made it unclear whether one of the two leaders – or both – was willing to shift ground in a way that would allow them to bridge the gaps.
On the UK side, there was ongoing anger at what have been described as the EU’s “unprecedented and last-minute demands” that allegedly would have bound Britain “forever” by EU rules.
There were allegations that the EU was pursuing an “unrealistic” negotiating mandate and that talks had gone as far as possible without high-level political intervention.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin, whose country is one of the countries most longing for an agreement, welcomed the announcement that negotiations would resume.
“An agreement is in everyone’s interest. Everything must be done to come to a deal, ”he tweeted.
For Labor, Shadow Cabinet Minister Rachel Reeves called on both sides to resolve their disputes as soon as possible.
“The British people were promised a deal and now that the time is running out, we are urging both sides to continue to reach an agreement,” she said.
However, Brexit leader Nigel Farage expressed concern that they were moving towards another extension of the UK period under EU rules.
“I really hope this lack of agreement does not mean we are on the way to an extension,” he tweeted.
“After four and a half years, Brexit voters will no longer tolerate that.”
If there is no deal, the UK will leave the European internal market and customs union on December 31st and start trading with the bloc under the terms of the World Trade Organization, imposing tariffs and quotas.
EU leaders will meet on Thursday for a two-day summit in Brussels – their last scheduled meeting of the year – when they can sign an agreement.
Time must then be found for both Houses of Parliament in the UK and the European Parliament to ratify it before the transition period ends – although there have been suggestions that could slip on the EU side.
Another complicating factor is that the UK government is reverting to the Commons legislation that allows it to override elements of Mr Johnson’s “divorce settlement” with Brussels in violation of international law.
On Monday, MPs will vote on whether or not to quash House of Lords amendments that delete the provisions in the UK’s internal market bill related to the Irish border.
MEPs will continue later in the week to discuss the Taxation Bill (after the transition period), which contains more similar provisions.
The legislation has infuriated the EU and – if passed – could further aggravate the mood in the negotiations, making a deal more difficult to reach.