Brexit trade talks extended beyond Sunday’s deadline as leaders pledge to go ‘the extra mile’

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    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (R) meet on trade deals in Brussels, Belgium on December 09, 2020.

    EU Commission / Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    LONDON — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday that Brexit trade talks with the U.K. will be extended beyond Sunday’s deadline, adding that “we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.”

    Von der Leyen spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson via telephone on Sunday before releasing a joint statement. Both have now mandated their negotiating teams to continue their work.

    Media reports from the U.K. suggested there had been some progress in talks in recent days, despite the lack of a breakthrough. No new deadline for the discussions was set by the EU and U.K. leaders.

    No-deal concerns

    The U.K. left the EU in January but it agreed to keep the same standards and regulations until the end of the year, so both sides would have time to develop new trading arrangements.

    However, this transition period ends in less than three weeks and there are serious concerns that they will not have a new agreement ready by then. Failure to get an agreement in the coming weeks, a so-called no-deal Brexit, could push up taxes and costs for exporters on both sides. 

    The Brexit negotiations are particularly difficult because it’s the first time in the EU’s history that both parties are looking to diverge from a current set of rules. Traditionally, new trade deals result in an harmonization of food, labor and other standards.

    Wednesday’s working dinner

    Johnson had a working dinner with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday evening in an attempt to find political solutions to three outstanding issues in the trade talks: fisheries, competition rules and arbitration over their potential new deal. Negotiators have been stuck on these three areas since early in the summer. Both leaders had agreed a Sunday deadline for the talks, which has now been extended further with no new date set.

    ‘A good signal’

    Leaders stressed the urgency of the 11th-hour talks and the importance of reaching a deal of some sort, despite all previous negotiations failing to break the impasse. “We must do all that we can to find a good deal,” EU Council President Charles Michel said Sunday.

    Simon Coveney, the minister for foreign affairs of Ireland, said via Twitter that the joint statement from both leaders on Sunday on Brexit negotiations “is a good signal.”

    “A deal clearly very difficult, but possible,” he said.

    —CNBC’s Silvia Amaro contributed to this article.

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