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Brexit Talks Continue But Johnson and EU Warn of Big Differences

Ian Wishart
·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used a phone call on Saturday to plot the way forward toward a Brexit deal, but said that large differences still need to be bridged if there is to be an agreement.

The prime minister and the European Union’s chief official will now allow their negotiators --David Frost for the U.K. and Michel Barnier for the EU -- to resume trade talks in London, in what a U.K. spokesman described as a redoubling of efforts. They had been paused since Thursday to enable the two sides to take stock.

“Some progress has been made, but large differences remain especially on level playing field and fisheries,” von der Leyen said in a Tweet. “Our teams will continue working hard next week. We will remain in close contact in the next days.”

Both the EU and U.K. have previously indicated that Nov. 15 is the very last moment a deal can be done if it is to be ratified by their respective parliaments before the post-Brexit transition period ends on Dec. 31 and the U.K. formally leaves the European single market.

A statement from the U.K. echoed both the determination and the difficulties. Talks have been stuck for months on the key issues of the level playing field for business and access to British fishing waters.

“The Prime Minister set out that, while some progress had been made in recent discussions, significant differences remain in a number of areas, including the so-called level playing field and fish,” a U.K. government spokesperson said. Johnson and von der Leyen “agreed that their negotiating teams would continue talks in London next week, beginning on Monday, in order to redouble efforts to reach a deal,” the spokesperson said.

After 14 straight days of negotiations, the two sides offered a downbeat assessment earlier this week on the state of play, with each blaming the other for the lack of progress. The talks are stuck on three big issues: the so-called level playing field for business, access to British fishing waters and how any potential deal is enforced.

(Adds Barnier tweet in final paragraph.)

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