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UK and EU agree to extend Brexit talks following call

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·4-min read
Flags of the European Union EU and the United Kingdom UK / Great Britain among all the other European flags in Forum Europa Building in Brussels, Belgium, during the European Council summit - special meeting of EU Leaders about Article 50 and the departure of United Kingdom from EU, Brexit on October 2019 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
While the UK formally left the bloc on 31 January 2020 it will fully leave the EU at the end of this year on 31 December, unless an extension is agreed. Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Boris Johnson and European Union commission president Ursula von der Leyen have agreed to continue Brexit talks, as the deadline originally set for ending discussions fast approaches.

After a call on Sunday, von der Leyen tweeted: “We had a useful call with @BorisJohnson this morning.

“We agreed that talks will continue.”

A joint statement from the pair read: “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.”

While the UK formally left the bloc on 31 January 2020 it will fully leave the EU at the end of this year on 31 December, unless an extension is agreed.

Speaking in Downing Street, Boris Johnson later warned that the UK and EU "remain very far apart" on the key issues.

He said: "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."

Tony Danker, Confederation for British Industry director-general, said: “The news that talks will continue gives hope. A deal is both essential and possible. It is the only way to build upon the extensive support for the economy given by all governments during the pandemic. Without it, that progress is undermined.

“Ongoing delays are frustrating and cost businesses. But it is vital to make use of the time. Government must move with even more determination to avoid the looming cliff edge of January 1st. That means taking three bold steps.”

Betting odds this morning had put chances of a deal at below 40%, as it looked increasingly unlikely the stalemate between the pair would be able to be broken.

Alongside this, odds on the transition period being extended stood at just 15% this morning.

READ MORE: UK civil service has over 2,000 Brexit-related vacancies as no-deal disruption looms

The potentially hopeful sign comes amid news that the UK government is planning a “multi-billion” pound bailout package for industries that would be hit hardest by a no-deal Brexit.

According to reports in The Sunday Telegraph sheep farmers, fishermen, car manufacturers and chemical suppliers would be in line for financial support, as they could be facing European Union tariffs after the end of the transition period on 1 January.

Citing two unnamed sources, the newspaper said the package could total between £8bn and £10bn and has taken inspiration from last year’s Operation Kingfisher — measures drawn up ahead of a breakthrough on the Brexit deal.

The Cabinet office had not responded to Yahoo Finance requests for comment on the potential bailout at the time of publication.

Johnson chaired a meeting on Friday to “take stock” on Britain's preparedness for a no-deal scenario along with senior minister Michael Gove, who is responsible for Brexit planning.

The PM said the bloc needed to make a "big change" over the main sticking points on fishing rights and business competition rules, while von der Leyen, who reiterated many times that “significant differences” remained, said no-deal was the most probable end to "difficult" talks.

Watch: Why is fishing so important in Brexit talks?