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UK, EU agree to go ‘extra mile’ as Brexit talks extended

by Jonathan Adams

EU negotiator Michel Barnier and Britain’s David Frost held talks on Saturday and Sunday

The European Union and Britain ordered their negotiators back to work on Sunday after agreeing to abandon a supposed make-or-break deadline for a post-Brexit trade pact.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said last week they would decide whether an agreement was possible by the end of Sunday, but agreed in a crisis call to “go the extra mile”.

Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days, Ms von der Leyen said in a video message, reading out a joint statement agreed with Johnson.

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 leaders said, without offering a new deadline.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier and Britain’s David Frost held talks late on Saturday and early on Sunday. They have been alternating between the capitals but a European official said that, for the moment, they would remain in Brussels.

Speaking for himself, Mr Johnson insisted that agreement was far from sure with less than three weeks to go until Britain leaves the EU single market at the end of the month.

I’m afraid we’re still very far apart on some key things, but where there’s life there’s hope, he said at Downing Street after briefing his cabinet about the call. The UK certainly won’t be walking away from the talks. I still think there’s a deal to be done if our partners want to do it, he added.

Mr Johnson said Britain “would be as creative as we possibly can”, confirming that he had sought anew to engage directly with Paris or Berlin but was rebuffed by the EU.

Reports suggested the two sides were exploring a potential deal on how to respond if their regulations diverge over time and threaten fair competition.

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