The post-Brexit trade talks remained deadlocked on key areas, as London urged Brussels to give ground to avoid a damaging “no-deal” at the end of the year. They have pinpointed a European summit to October 15 as the latest agreement could be reached for it to be ratified in time for it take effect at the end of the year.
However the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost complained of a continued gulf between the two sides in crucial areas such as competition rules and fishing rights.
After the ninth round of talks in the difficult process broke up in Brussels, with renewed commitments to find a way out of the impasse, there was clear acknowledgement the deadline approaches.
“To reach an agreement, these divergences must necessarily be overcome over the next weeks,” said Barnier.
Despite indicating there were signs of agreement in a number of areas, Frost warned disagreements over competition rules and fishing may be “impossible” to overcome without the EU giving ground.
“I am concerned that there is very little time now to resolve these issues ahead of the European Council on October 15,” he said.
Next steps may be determined on October 3 in a video conference between European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Johnson said it was up to Brussels to agree to terms to unblock a deal.
“It’s all there, it’s just up to them,” he told the BBC, urging the EU to bow to common sense.
UK and EU officials have underlined the two leaders would take stock of progress made in the latest round of talks even as the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned against a deal “at any price”.
“This is so difficult, but overall where there is a will there is a way. I think we should intensify the negotiations,” the EU top executive told press after meeting leaders of the 27-member bloc.