BRUSSELS — An impasse in Brexit trade talks still remains despite a three-hour meeting between the EU and U.K. leaders on Wednesday evening, but negotiations will continue over the coming days.
A senior Downing Street source, cited by media outlets such as Reuters and the BBC, said that large gaps still persist in the discussions. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed that by Sunday a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks, the source added.
The U.K. left the EU in January but it agreed to keep the same standards and regulations until the end of the year, so both sides would have time to develop new trading arrangements. However, this transition period ends in three weeks and there are serious concerns that they will not have a new agreement ready by then.
Johnson had a working dinner with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday in an attempt to find political solutions to three outstanding issues in the trade talks: fisheries, competition rules and arbitration over their potential new deal. Negotiators have been stuck on these three areas since early in the summer.
Von der Leyen later confirmed Wednesday evening that both sides remain "far apart" after a "lively" dinner.
"We agreed that the (negotiating) teams should immediately reconvene to try to resolve these essential issues," she said, according to Reuters. "We will come to a decision by the end of the weekend."
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The Brexit negotiations are particularly difficult because it's the first time in the EU's history that both parties are looking to diverge from a current set of rules. Traditionally, new trade deals result in an harmonization of food, labor and other standards.
The EU's aim is to ensure its market is not undermined by the U.K.'s departure from the political bloc. At the same time, the U.K. wants to regain full power over the sort of policies and regulations it decides to follow. Finding common ground between these two positions involves compromise.
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Failure to get an agreement in the coming weeks would push up taxes and costs for exporters on both sides. However, irrespective of whether a deal is achieved, citizens and businesses on both sides will face different rules from Jan. 1. The idea of the trade deal is to make this change much smoother.
EU leaders will hold their last scheduled summit of the year in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.