European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she and Boris Johnson had agreed to “go the extra mile” and continue negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal.
he British Prime Minister spoke to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to extend the deadline for negotiations to continue.
In a joint statement they agreed to “go the extra mile” in an effort to find a solution after almost a year of negotiations.
The statement 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.
Speaking in Downing Street, Boris Johnson said there is a Brexit trade “deal to be done” but warned that the UK and EU “remain very far apart” on the key issues.
He said: “We are always happy to talk and to make progress where we can. I do think, as I say, there is a deal to be done if our partners want to do it. But we remain very far apart on these key issues.
“And you know what they are – the UK can’t be locked into the EU’s regulatory orbit and we’ve obviously got to take back control of our fisheries four-and-a-half years after people voted for it.
“So those are the points. I think that it is very clear what the UK is talking about, let’s see what we can achieve.
“But in the meantime, get ready, with confidence, for January 1 – trade on WTO terms if we have to.”
Boris Johnson said the UK “will not walk away” from post-Brexit trade deal talks with the European Union.
The Prime Minister said: “The idea was when we went out on Wednesday, the hope was we were going to be able to finish things off today if there was a deal to be done.
“As things stand, and this is what Ursula (von der Leyen) and I agreed, I’m afraid we are still very far apart on some key things.
“But where there is life, there’s hope. We are going to keep talking to see what we can do.
“The UK certainly won’t be walking away from the talks. I think people will expect us to go the extra mile.”
Simon Coveney told RTE Radio’s This Week the last few days had been difficult for both negotiating teams and they were under “enormous pressure” to try and find a way forward.
“Both sides do want a deal and they want a deal now to provide certainty for so many people who have been waiting for it for years,” he said.
He noted both sides had described the discussions as “constructive and useful”, in a shift from their previous terms of “lively and interesting”.
He said their joint statement was a sign they were working to try to find a way forward together.
“The only way we get a deal here that both sides can live with is if both understand the real and genuine problems of the other side and try to resolve them through a legal text.”
Earlier today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned today that it is vital that Britain and Europe don’t have an acrimonious break-up, because that would be “very damaging all round”.
“I think it would be an appalling failure of statecraft if we were not in a position to get a deal over the line,” the Taoiseach said.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show in an interview from Cork, Mr Martin said he fervently hopes talks can continue even after today’s deadline.
“The fact that they negotiated through the night is an important sign in itself. Where the dialogue continues that that gives me hope,” he said.
“Even at the 11th hour, in a very difficult negotiation around level playing field and fisheries, the capacity in my view still exists for the United Kingdom Government and the European Union negotiating teams to conclude a deal that is in all our interests for the long term,” the Taoiseach told British viewers.
Ursula von der Leyen is due to have a phone call with Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, at lunchtime. Talks all night in Brussels were said to have produced “no progress.”
Mr Martin was asked if it was fair that Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron had refused a request from Boris Johnson for last-minute meetings in a bid to break the logjam, and had even turned down phone calls.
“Europe has 27 EU member states — we work through the Commission,” he said. “There is great respect and faith in Michel Barnier and his team, and the view from the outset has been that this is the negotiating channel, and the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, would engage with British Prime Minister, in terms of resolving any sort of major issues or to unblock any blockages.
“I absolutely understand that. And of course they are talking later on today.”
Mr Martin, who has reportedly been texting Mr Johnson on the negotiations to urge him to think of the effects of a break-up on working people across these islands and Europe, said the pair “have an open channel” in the context of of the British Irish relationship.
“But I think in terms of the substance of the negotiations is between the European Union negotiating team of Michel Barnier and the British Government.”
Mr Martin said he appreciated the work that was done by the British negotiating team on the Northern Ireland protocol, and in relation to the withdrawal treaty, which last week led to the withdrawal of contentious clauses in the UK Internal Market Bill.
“I think that demonstrates what can happen when there’s when people knuckle down and get involved in a constructive process.”
He added: “It is absolutely imperative that both sides continue to engage and both sides continue to work in negotiate to avoid a no-deal, because I firmly believe and have consistently said that no deal would be very bad news for all of us.
“We are interdependent. The UK economy and the European economy is very integrated. And that has built up over a long time. It was the United Kingdom, that was one of the creators of the Single Market going back to the time of Margaret Thatcher, who led the way on that.
“So in my view it’s extremely important that the future relationship between the United Kingdom, and Europe is a solid one, not just in terms of tariff-free trade but also in terms of politics, judicial and security co-operation, aviation, transport and energy.
“It’s important that we have a good future relationship deal between Europe and the United Kingdom given, given the geopolitical challenges we are facing, but also because we represent people workers, employers who need certainty, and because no deal would be so damaging to workers in the UK in Ireland and across Europe.
“That is why I say, with any bit of energy we have left, we must continue to focus on negotiating our way to a deal.”
Mr Martin also pointed to the election of Joe Biden in the United States as an opportunity to “reset transatlantic relations” between the EU, the UK and the United States post-Trump’s administration.
“Given the capacity of both sides to reach an agreement on the Northern Ireland protocol, it shows there is the capacity on both sides to get a deal on substantive issues around a level playing field.”
Mr Martin said he didn’t like language around “Britain being tied to” the EU in the future but said it was more about access to markets and the “interdependence of our economic and political systems”.
Any such agreement needs a framework to settle any potential disputes in the future, the Taoiseach insisted, adding: “I do believe there is room there to solve this”