Post- Brexit trade discussions between the European Union and the U.K. will resume on Sunday following a pause in negotiations in light of their inability to bridge an array of differences, Britain’s prime minister and the head of the EU’s executive branch said. .
In a joint statement Saturday following a phone call between them, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “a further effort” should be undertaken by their respective negotiating teams to assess whether the “significant differences” can be resolved.
In their statement, the pair noted that progress has been achieved in many areas and also the areas of division on the issues of fishing rights, the “level playing field” — the standards the U.K. must meet to export into the bloc — and how future disputes are resolved.
“Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved,” they said. “Whilst recognizing 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.”
With the U.K.’s post-Brexit transition period due to conclude at the end of the year, the discussions are clearly at a crunch point, not least because of the necessary approvals required on both sides after negotiators reach a deal. Without an agreement in place, tariffs will end up being imposed on traded goods at the start of 2021.
Though the U.K. left the EU on Jan. 31, it remains within the bloc’s tariff-free single market and customs union until the end of this year. A trade deal by then would ensure there are no tariffs and quotas on trade in goods between the two sides, but there would still be technical costs, partly associated with customs checks and non-tariff barriers on services.
Both sides would suffer economically from a failure to secure a trade deal, but most economists think the British economy would take a greater hit, at least in the near-term, as it is relatively more reliant on trade with the EU than vice versa.