Last ditch when Britain, EU resumes Brexit trade talks in Brussels

British and European Union negotiators will meet in Brussels on Sunday in a final attempt to reach a post-Brexit trade agreement before a transitional agreement expires on 31 December.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke on Saturday, instructing their teams to resume talks after a hiatus on Friday.

In a joint statement after their talks, Johnson and von der Leyen said no agreement was reached on disagreements over the three-pronged issues of governance, fisheries and competition rules, so-called equal terms, were not resolved.

“This is the last roll of the dice,” said a British source close to the talks.

I called a conversation with @BorisJohnson about the EU-UK negotiations.

Differences remain. No agreement possible if these are not resolved. The main negotiator will return tomorrow. We’ll talk again on Monday.

– Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) December 5, 2020

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said talks with his British counterpart David Frost on Sunday would show whether a new trade agreement could be reached.

A majority of Johnson’s ministers were willing to support him if he decides that an agreement is not in Britain’s interest, the Times reported, saying 13 councils of ministers – including eight who opposed Brexit – had confirmed they would do so.

British Agriculture Secretary George Eustice backed it up in an interview with Sky News on Sunday, saying the country had made a huge amount of preparations for a no-deal and was ready to go through such a scenario.

“We will continue to work on these negotiations until there is no point in doing so anymore,” Eustice said.

But Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney, a key figure in Brexit talks in recent years, said it was not credible for the British government to suggest they could handle a no-deal.

Coveney made a more optimistic note that it was his “very strong view” that an agreement could be reached. “We are more likely to reach an agreement than not,” Coveney told the Irish newspaper Sunday Independent.

>> Irish Foreign Secretary on Brexit: “We will not hit a deal at any cost”

Negotiations were suspended on Friday after hopes of a deal evaporated earlier this week. The British team said that the EU had made demands that were incompatible with its sovereignty and warned that the talks could be ended without an agreement.

Coveney denied that the EU had hardened its stance.

If they do not reach an agreement, a five-year Brexit divorce will end unhappily, just as Britain and its former EU partners will struggle with the financial costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts have warned that a no-deal scenario would cause huge long-term disruption to the UK economy.