London, Dec 5 (efe-epa).- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen agreed Saturday to a resumption of talks aimed at an accord governing the post-Brexit trade relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
The leaders made the announcement in a joint statement following a telephone conversation that lasted for more than an hour.
Acknowledging the distance between the two sides on several key issues, Johnson and Von der Leyen said they agreed that “a further effort should be undertaken.”
“We are therefore instructing our chief negotiators to reconvene tomorrow (Sunday) in Brussels. We will speak again on Monday evening,” they said.
The prime minister and the commission chief spoke a day after the respective chief negotiators, David Frost for the UK and Michel Barnier for the EU, decided to “pause the talks in order to brief their Principals on the state of play of the negotiations.”
The pause followed a week of “intense negotiations” in London that failed to bridge the gap on the questions of competition rules, fisheries and enforcement mechanisms for the eventual pact.
“We welcomed the fact that progress has been achieved in many areas,” Johnson and Von der Leyen said of their call.
“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,” they said.
The three sticking points cited by Von der Leyen and Frost Barnier have prevented a deal for months.
A post-Brexit deal is to be in place by Jan. 1, after the end of the 11-month transition period that was triggered earlier this year when the UK formally left the EU.
If there is no deal in place, the trade system between the UK and the EU will default to less favorable World Trade Organization terms.
At a minimum, a no-deal scenario would entail a requirement for onerous customs checks at UK and EU ports with the potential for lengthy delays that would disrupt supply chains.
Each side would also be free to levy tariffs on imports from the other.
“We will see if there is a way forward. Work continues tomorrow,” Barnier said Saturday on Twitter after the announcement from Johnson and Von der Leyen. EFE