LONDON/BRUSSELS : British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen instructed their negotiators to resume trade talks on Sunday in a last-ditch attempt to bridge significant differences.
The decision to revive the long-running talks after they stalled on Friday over three of the thorniest issues suggests both sides believe there is still some hope they can secure a deal governing almost $1 trillion of trade a year.But it was not clear whether either camp was ready to shift its position enough to allow the breakthrough that has proved elusive since Britain left the EU on Jan. 31 and entered a transition period that runs until the end of the year.
In a joint statement, the two leaders said that while there were serious differences, “we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved”.
“No agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved,” they said after speaking for more than an hour on Saturday. “We are therefore instructing our chief negotiators to reconvene tomorrow in Brussels. We will speak again on Monday evening.”
After months of negotiations, there has barely been any movement on three areas of disagreement – fisheries, ensuring fair competition guarantees and ways to solve future disputes.
Sources from both sides said that French demands over fishing rights in British waters remained a key issue, and some in Johnson’s Conservative Party suggested that EU officials had to convince French President Emmanuel Macron to back a deal.
Two EU officials said the talks would resume where they had left off. One described the suspension and then resumption of talks as theatrics. “Each side needs a bit of drama to be able to sell this.”