The European Union and the United Kingdom said that “significant gaps remained” between the two sides according to a statement following Saturday talks.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met via videoconference to discuss the “state of play.” After relations deteriorated further earlier this week , there were still massive gaps regarding fisheries, governance, and the UK’s access to the European single market after the UK fully breaks off from the EU.
While the UK has politically separated from the EU, it remains economically tied to the bloc until December 31.
The two parties are trying to strike a trade deal before the end of the year to avoid economic uncertainty, tariffs and red tape that could hurt both sides.
‘Up to our friends’
Johnson told reporters before Saturday’s talks that the UK wants a free trade deal with the EU that is similar to what the EU has with Canada, but is also prepared should negotiations fall apart.
“We’re resolved on either course, we’re prepared for either course and we’ll make it work, but it’s very much up to our friends and partners,” said Johnson.
Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at the political consultancy the Eurasia Group, said the join statement was “sober,” but told British broadcaster BBC that both sides were serious about a deal.
“I think both sides have a good understanding of a landing zone,” Rahman told BBC, adding, “it’s not really a policy problem. I think both sides believe a deal is doable. It’s more a political question.”
Johnson has said that the October 15-16 EU summit was effectively the deadline for a deal if it is to be ratified by the end of 2020. EU officials however have stated that talks may continue on.
The EU had launched legal action against the UK over the Internal Market Bill, which could undermine the EU’s previously agreed oversight of trade to and from Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland shares a border with EU-member Ireland.
With the bill, Johnson would have the power to override a provision in the withdrawal agreement that would impose different customs rules on Northern Ireland that would be different post-Brexit customs rules to the rest of the UK.
The bill was passed by the House of Commons but must be approved by the upper chamber, the House of Lords, where it will likely meet opposition.
kbd/aw (AP, dpa)
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