UK and EU agree to ‘go extra mile’ and extend trade talks

Boris Johnson and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen discussed 'major unresolved topics' in phone call on Sunday.

UK and EU agree to ‘go extra mile’ and extend trade talks Getty Images
The UK and European Union have agreed to extend trade talks.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have agreed to “go the extra mile” and continue negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Johnson and and von der Leyen spoke by phone on Sunday to extend the deadline.

In a joint statement, they said: “We had a useful phone call this morning. We discussed the major unresolved topics.

“Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days.

“And despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.

“We have accordingly mandated our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached.”

The agreement to carry on talking came despite pessimistic briefings from both sides of the negotiations in the run-up to the deadline set for Sunday on the future of the process.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested there could be room for manoeuvre on the end point of the negotiations over a free trade agreement.

He said there is “a long way to go” to find a resolution on the two outstanding issues of fisheries and so-called level playing field “ratchet” clause which would tie the UK to future EU standards.

Mr Raab told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show the bar that would need to be crossed to continue talking is “quite high”, suggesting that some movement must have been achieved for Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen to reach that conclusion.

“We would need at a political level a commitment to move on those two key issues,” he said.

“When you look at what I said at the start of the week, it is pretty similar to what I’m saying now, which is never say never because EU negotiations can often drag and drift.

“But, actually, we do need finality and therefore we need at the political level of Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, that there is clarity the EU will move on those two key issues. If we get that then there are still talks to be processed.”

The row over what rights EU trawlers would have to access UK waters dramatically escalated over the weekend, with Royal Navy vessels on stand-by to patrol the seas around Britain if there is no deal.