Brexit talks are back on between the UK and EU after a brief break. After both sides paused talks due to remaining differences on level playing field rules, governance and fishing rights, the hope was that a phone conversation between Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen would help to break the deadlock. While a deal is yet to be agreed, that call has led to both sides agreeing to return to the negotiating table.
Following the conversation, Johnson and von der Leyen released a joint statement promising a ‘further effort’ would be made in the search for a Brexit deal:
‘In a phone call today on the on-going negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, we welcomed the fact that progress has been achieved in many areas. Nevertheless, significant differences remain on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries. Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved. 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.’
The pair are due to speak again on Monday evening. By that point, the sense on the UK side is that the ingredients for an agreement must be in place if a deal is to happen. The EU summit on Thursday combined with the introduction in the UK Parliament of controversial Brexit-related legislation early in the week means that for once in the Brexit talks a hard deadline is in sight.
While von der Leyen and Johnson have agreed to keep talking, what remains to be seen is how much license they have granted their teams to find agreement. There is a sense that the disagreements that remain between the two sides require a political intervention rather than a technical solution. However, there is pessimism that today’s phone call will be enough to bridge the difference.
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