British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ordered negotiators to keep the dialogue going despite having set a “deal or no deal” target of Sunday.
“Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations and despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over, we both think it is responsible at this point in time to go the extra mile,” they said in a joint statement Sunday.
While the negotiators will continue working to hammer out a last-minute deal in Brussels, Johnson later reiterated his previous viewpoint, telling British broadcasters that the two sides were still “very far apart on some key things.”
“Where there is life there’s hope. We’re going to keep talking to see what we can do. The U.K. certainly won’t be walking away from the talks,” he said.
Although Britain quit the 27-country bloc in January, it remains an informal member until Dec. 31 as part of a Brexit transition period in which it has remained in the E.U. single market and customs union.
Now, with less than three weeks until the U.K.’s final split, key aspects of the future trade relationship remain unresolved.
The two sides have been unable to agree on fishing rights in British waters, as well as E.U. demands that Britain face consequences if it eventually diverges from the bloc’s rules for fair competition.
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It has been more than four years since Britons voted by 52 percent to 48 percent to leave the E.U. and, in the words of the Brexiteers’ slogan, “take back control” of Britain’s borders and laws.
A Brexit without a trade deal could severely damage the economies of Europe — which have already been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic — and send shock waves through financial markets.
The Associated Press contributed.