The European Union and Britain will convene once more for face-to-face negotiations on Sunday in a last-minute attempt to salvage a post-Brexit trade deal, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday.
Following a crisis call between von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – after chief negotiators had called a break in negotiations for lack of progress on Friday – von der Leyen said talks should continue despite significant differences.
“Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved,” she said in a statement. “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.”
Progress continues to be blocked by three long-standing areas of discord, according to the negotiatiors’ statement: fisheries, the governance of disputes and competition assurances.
The negotiators are set to reconvene in Brussels on Sunday, von der Leyen said, and she and Johnson would speak again on Monday.
The resumption of talks comes at a crucial time, with British parliamentarians expected to vote on whether to reinsert controversial provisions in an internal market bill on the same day.
If passed, the legislation could pose a further stumbling block in the negotiations. The European Union maintains that the bill overrides parts of the withdrawal agreement between the bloc and Britain.
“We will see if there is a way forward. Work continues tomorrow,” EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said following the phone call on Saturday.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin struck a more positive tone and welcomed the announcement that talks are to resume.
“An agreement is in everyone’s best interests. Every effort should be made to reach a deal,” he said on Twitter.
Following a week of intensive talks, negotiations were paused on Friday evening after both sides agreed that the conditions for an agreement were not met as of yet, according to a joint statement.
Britain and the EU are running out of time to reach an agreement.
“We are all gearing up for a crucial Brexit negotiations weekend,” German Ambassador to Britain Andreas Michaelis had said on Twitter before the call between von der Leyen and Johnson.
“Will be exciting for sure. This is really important. Results will shape our political and economic environment for years,” he said.
Britain left the bloc formally at the end of January but is still in the EU single market until December 31. If there is no deal in place by this deadline, the harshest of tariffs and cumbersome custom checks would be reimposed, potentially wreaking economic havoc.