Prime minister Boris Johnson and European Commission (EC) president Ursula von der Leyen have agreed to “intensify” Brexit trade talks, during a video conference call on Saturday.
In a joint statement, the pair acknowledged that “significant gaps remained” between the UK and Brussels, and agreed on the importance of “finding an agreement, if at all possible,” as a “strong basis for a strategic EU-UK relationship in future.”
The pair have agreed to speak on a regular basis.
Good phone call with @BorisJohnson about the state of play in the 🇪🇺-🇬🇧 negotiations.
While progress had been made, significant gaps remain. We agreed that it's important to find an agreement as strong basis for a strategic relationship.
Joint statement → https://t.co/Tl3jdRIZqB pic.twitter.com/rUTSp8l9dP
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) October 3, 2020
The PM and the EC president have also instructed chief negotiators on both sides, David Frost and Michel Barnier to “work intensively in order to try to bridge” gaps in areas such as, fisheries, the level playing field, and governance.
The two sides held the final scheduled round of Brexit trade talks on Friday.
On Friday, in a statement following a meeting with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost expressed worries about the level of progress made so far.
“I am concerned that there is very little time now to resolve these issues ahead of the European Council on October 15,” Frost said.
Von der Leyen warned that time was running out, and with “100 days” till the end of the year it is time to “step up.” She said she believed a Brexit deal was still possible: “It is good to have a deal — but not at any price,” she said during a press conference on Friday in Brussels.
“But overall, where there is a will, there is a way, so I think we should intensify the negotiations because it is worth working hard on it,” she added.
She, did point out however that “difficult issues” such as fisheries and state aid rules — still had to be resolved if they were to get an agreement in place by the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the PM told the Telegraph, that the chances of a deal “are very good if everybody just exercises some common sense and looks at the deal that is there to be done.”
He said that the “UK has always been very clear that it wants a Canada-style relationship.”
“We have been members for 45 years, and I don’t see why they can’t have the same deal with us, so I’m pretty optimistic,” Johnson added.
While the PM urged using common sense to reach a Brexit trade deal that satisfies all parties, he did not shy away from pointing out that a “Brexit deal will get done” under all circumstances, including an Australian-type arrangement — a Downing Street code term for a no-deal agreement.
Last week, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) boss Dame Carolyn Fairbairn called for a 11th hour Brexit trade deal, revealing that more than three-quarters (77%) of UK businesses want to see a Brexit deal agreed.
It is the first time Johnson, and von der Leyen will have been directly involved in Brexit negotiations in months.
Watch: What is a no-deal Brexit and what are the potential consequences?