Brexit trade negotiations ended on another dismal note this week as they were put on pause on Friday. Both sides failed to reach an agreement on three outstanding issues around future fishing arrangements, state aid and fair competition guarantees, otherwise known as the level playing field. The Prime Minister spoke to the European Commission President this afternoon in an attempt to break the impasse in talks as the transition period deadline looms closer.
In a joint statement released this evening, Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen said they have agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by their negotiating teams to assess whether they can resolve their remaining differences on a post-Brexit trade deal.
The statement said: “In a phone call today on the on-going negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, we welcomed the fact that progress has been achieved in many areas.
“Nevertheless, significant differences remain on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries. Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved.
“Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved.
“We are therefore instructing our chief negotiators to reconvene tomorrow in Brussels.
“We will speak again on Monday evening.”
Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin tweeted: “I welcome the fact that negotiators will resume their discussions on an EU and UK trade deal in Brussels
“An agreement is in everyone’s best interests. Every effort should be made to reach a deal.”
Mr Barnier’s talks had been halted with the UK’s negotiator David Frost over claims by the EU side that the deal did not provide “a level playing field”.
Mr Barnier said: “After one week of intense negotiations in London, together with David Frost, we agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.”
Lord Frost also admitted he would have to pass next stage of negotiations to Mr Johnson.
He said: “After one week of intense negotiations in London, the two chief negotiators agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.
“On this basis, they agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their principles on the start of play in the negotiations.
“President von der Leyen and Prime Minister Johnson will discuss the state of play tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon.”
Europe minister Clement Beaune said France planned to vote down the trade deal unless Mr Johnson gives concessions on access to Britain’s waters.
Mr Beaune said: “If there were a deal that isn’t good which in our evaluation doesn’t correspond to those interests, we will oppose it.”