Von der Leyen, Johnson: It is responsible to go the extra mile

The negotiations continue in Brussels

Photo: EU Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed on Sunday to continue discussions on a post-Brexit deal, EC President said in a press statement after their “useful” phone call, held around noon. 

In a joint statement the two leaders pointed out that they discussed the major unresolved topics. “Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days.”

"Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over, we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile," the statement reads.

It also became clear that both leaders have accordingly mandated the negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached.

"The negotiations continue here in Brussels," von der Leyen specified.

As EUROPOST reminds, Britain formally left the EU at the end of January, but remains a member of the bloc's internal market and customs union until a transition period runs out at the end of the year. 

If no deal governing future relations is struck by the end of the month, the harshest of tariffs will be instated and cumbersome customs checks will slow down business. Overall, both sides will have to prepare for significant upheaval, in case trade is hampered by new formalities that could paralyse traffic across the English Channel.

"Without a deal, the British public will face more than 3bn pounds [$4bn] in food tariffs and retailers would have no choice but to pass on some of these additional costs to their customers, who would see higher prices filter through during 2021," Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.

"Moreover, new checks and red tape that will apply from January 1 will create an additional burden for retailers and their customers," Dickinson added.

Such a scenario could be avoided in case a deal is struck, although it would need ratification, meaning the approval process would run down to the wire.

A deal has been blocked mainly by disagreement on competition assurances - with the EU fearing Britain could try to undercut its businesses with lower environmental or social standards - EU access to British fishing waters, and how to govern disputes. Tensions rose this weekend when Britain said it has four Royal Navy vessels on standby to defend its fishing waters from EU fleets, which currently have access but would lose it if the month ends without a trade deal.

"I do think there is a deal to be done, if our partners want to do it, but we remain very far apart on... key issues," Johnson told Sky.

"The UK can't be locked into the EU's regulatory orbit and we've obviously got to take back control of our fisheries four and a half years after people voted for it. In the meantime, get ready, with confidence, for January 1, trade on WTO terms if we have to," he said.

But Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney commented it was promising that the EU and the British Government issued a joint statement, as they need to work together, adding it would be a "huge political failing" if there was no deal.

"It's not going to be done by one side out-manoeuvring the other, with a clear winner and a clear loser," he told RTE Radio’s This Week programme. 

"[A deal] really needs to be done over the next coming days. From the Irish perspective we want a deal." 

More on this subject: Brexit

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