Updated Dec 6, 2020 - World

EU-U.K. Brexit negotiations back on as deadline looms

Combination images of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Combination images of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Julien Warnand/AFP via Getty Images/John Sibley/PA Images via Getty Images

United Kingdom and European Union negotiators were resuming talks Sunday on a post-Brexit trade deal, which remain deadlocked following "significant divergences."

Why it matters: The U.K. and EU hope to make a deal before the transition period ends on Dec. 31, but differences remain on "three critical issues," officials said Saturday.

The state of play: The U.K. officially left the EU this January, but is still part of its economic bloc through the end of this year under a transition period.

  • Talks between the two parties were halted on Friday due to "significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries," Britain’s David Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier said in a joint statement.
  • But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak again on Monday following Sunday's negotiations, they said.

Of note: A key aspect of talks is how to extricate the U.K. from EU customs rules while avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This crucial part of the Good Friday Agreement brought an end to decades of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland.

What they're saying: "In a phone call today on the on-going negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, we welcomed the fact that progress has been achieved in many areas," said von der Leyen and Johnson said in a joint statement.

  • "Nevertheless, significant differences remain on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries. Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved."
  • "Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved."
  • Irish Taoiseach Micheál Martin tweeted Saturday, "An agreement is in everyone's best interests. Every effort should be made to reach a deal."

Go deeper: The implications of a "no-deal" Brexit

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of Sunday's negotiations, Martin's comment and further context on the Irish border.

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