Brexit deal: Sunday deadline set as 'very large gaps' remain
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have set a Sunday deadline for the Brexit trade deal. After a three-hour "frank" discussion, the two sides agreed that a deal must be signed by Sunday or there would be no deal. Downing Street has said that "very large gaps" remain between the two sides, despite nine months of negotiations.
Johnson and von der Leyen had held a dinner meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, where the UK's chief negotiator Lord Frost and the European Union's Michel Barnier were also present. After the "lively and interesting discussion," the European Commission President said in a tweet, "We understand each other's positions. They remain far apart. The teams should immediately reconvene to try to resolve these issues."
"We will come to a decision by the end of the weekend," von der Leyen said. Downing Street said Johnson did "not want to leave any route to a possible deal untested." It said, "Very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged." Talks between Frost and Barnier will resume in Brussels.
The UK will stop following the EU trading rules on December 31, which is when the 11-month transition period for Brexit ends. It cannot be extended beyond that date. The two sides were supposed to strike a deal before the date, however, major disagreements over fishing rights, business competition rules, and how a deal will be policed remain.
Before reaching Brussels, Johnson had told the House of Commons that the EU is insisting "if they pass a new law in future with which we in this country don't comply, then they want the automatic right to punish us and to retaliate." "They're saying the UK should be the only country in the world not to have sovereign control over its fishing waters."
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it was "unlikely" the negotiations would be extended beyond Sunday. In the event that no deal is reached, the EU has proposed measures that it would implement. The plans, unveiled by von der Leyen on Thursday, aim to ensure basic UK-EU air and road connectivity, as well as allowing the possibility of fishing access to each other's waters.