EU and Britain to keep talking past Brexit deadline

Leaders meeting on Thursday and Friday will tell Brexit negotiator to step up talks to get a deal by 1 January

The EU and Britain are set to prolong Brexit talks past a mid-October deadline to try bridge persistent gaps holding up a new agreement, according to sources close to the talks. EU leaders meeting on Thursday and Friday will tell their Brexit negotiator to step up talks to get a deal by 1 January, according to a draft summit decision seen by Reuters.

UK negotiator David Frost is then due to tell PM Boris Johnson if he thinks it is worth continuing the tortuous negotiations and whether a deal on everything from trade to transport and energy cooperation is possible. A source close to the talks, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said Frost would say a deal was difficult but not impossible if both sides keep talking and work intensively in the coming weeks.

The EU summit is expected to conclude that progress in talks with Britain is “still not sufficient” to seal a new trading pact now and will also step up preparations for an abrupt split without a deal to avoid trade tariffs or quotas from 2021. EU leaders would also tell Britain it must implement in full its earlier Brexit divorce treaty.

“It is in the interests of both sides to have an agreement in place before the end of the transition period,” EU summit chairman Charles Michel said in a invitation letter to leaders. “This cannot, however, happen at any price. The coming days are decisive. Key issues include, in particular, the level playing field, fisheries and governance,” he said.

These three areas, covering guarantees of fair competition, including on state aid, fishing rights and dispute settlement procedures, have long been the main sticking points, although some progress has been made in recent weeks. Johnson is due to discuss next steps in a call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at 1830 GMT.

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