PM and EC president in emergency talks as time runs out on trade deal

Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen are to hold emergency talks as negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal go down to the wire.

With time for an agreement rapidly running out, the two sides' chief negotiators announced on Friday they were putting the talks on "pause" to allow political leaders to take stock.

In a joint statement following the latest round of negotiations in London, the UK's Lord Frost and the EU's Michel Barnier said the conditions for an agreement had still not been met.

After months months of circling round the same issues, they said "significant divergences" remained over fisheries, the "level playing field" rules on fair competition and the enforcement mechanism for any deal.

Michel Barnier has agreed to put the talks on 'pause' (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

While a series of deadlines have come and gone, this weekend is being seen as crucial if there is to be an agreement before the current Brexit transition period comes to an end at the end of the month.

However the UK side has accused Brussels of trying to introduce "new elements" into the talks at the 11th hour putting the chances of a deal in jeopardy.

They fear Mr Barnier has been coming under pressure from French President Emmanuel Macron, as the leader of a group of nations concerned that he has given too much ground to the UK.

Pictures of the week: November 29 - December 5
See Gallery
Pictures of the week: November 29 - December 5
A woman wearing a face mask takes a photo on her phone in Covent Garden, London, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Britain became the first country in the world to authorize a rigorously tested COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday and could be dispensing shots within days — a historic step toward eventually ending the outbreak that has killed more than 1.4 million people around the globe. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A member of staff polishes the 1969 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible, which had a starring role in the James Bond film 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', displayed at Bonhams, in Mayfair, before it is offered for the first time at auction, for an estimate price of 100.000 - 150.000 pounds sterling, in London, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
A train runs along the tracks in snowy Garsdale, on the border of Cumbria and North Yorkshire with the UK expecting more wintry weather ahead of the first weekend of December, with warnings in place for ice and snow.
Soccer fans wait for the start of the Europa League group B soccer match between Arsenal and Rapid Wien at Emirates stadium in London, England, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Final decorations are addd to the 40ft Christmas tree ahead of todays re-opening at Somerset House on December 03, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Pop-up winter domes are installed in the courtyard in preparation for a new dining experience, open to the public from December 3rd to January 1st, ahead of todays re-opening at Somerset House on December 03, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
Face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus are displayed for sale on a stall as non-essential shops are allowed to reopen after England's second lockdown ended at midnight, on Oxford Street, in London, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Pfizer and BioNTech say they've won permission Wednesday for emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine in Britain, the world's first coronavirus shot that's backed by rigorous science -- and a major step toward eventually ending the pandemic. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Elves talk to children in a winter-themed environment at Lapland UK in Whitmoor Forest, near Ascot in Berkshire, which has reopened after England emerged from lockdown.
YORK, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Audience members react as they watch actors from York Theatre Royal perform Jack and the Beanstalk on December 02, 2020 in York, England. The performance is the first of a series that are part of York Theatre Royal's Travelling Pantomime production. Until December 23 the pantomime will visit every one of York's 21 wards and put on a show in community centres, schools, sports and church halls. At the start of each performance the cast will ask the audience to choose between three different panto favourites; Dick Whittington, Jack and the Beanstalk and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Whichever show the audience decide on will be performed. The performance at York Theatre Royal comes on the first day of the new tier system introduced at the end of the second Coronavirus lockdown to prevent against further spread of the Coronavirus. York is in tier two and the restrictions allow for the performance in front of a limited audience to take place. Strict Covid-19 measures will be implemented in line with the current tier two guidelines. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Jessica Walker and Nicola Foster, known as the Lido Ladies, swim at Charlton Lido in Hornfair Park, London, on its first day of reopening after the second national lockdown ended and England enters a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
Lulu Kingstone, 9, looks up at Neon lights cascading down from one of Kew's heritage trees, during a preview for 'Christmas at Kew' at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Barber Ben Fessey cuts the hair of his first customer after reopening his barber shop in Moreton, north west England, on December 2, 2020 as England emerges from a month-long lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. - England on December 2 exited a month-long lockdown into a new 3-tiered system of curbs with non-essential retail, leisure centres and salons all reopening but with some sectors, including hospitality, seeing tighter restrictions. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
EDITORIAL USE ONLY Food writer Angela Clutton (centre) and Edd Kimber (second right), the first winner of The Great British Bake Off, with stallholders at the launch of Borough Market's Festive Kitchen, a new three-week livestream, digital pop-up, designed to inspire Londoners and food shoppers across the UK in the run up to Christmas.
A member of staff cleans gym equipment at David Lloyd health club in Leicester as they reopen after the second national lockdown ended and England now has a strengthened tiered system of coronavirus restrictions. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)
The sun rises over The Solent, which separates the mainland from the Isle of Wight, after the second national lockdown ended and England entered a strengthened tiered system of regional coronavirus restrictions. Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - accounting for little more than 1% of England's population - face the lightest Tier 1 restrictions. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Passengers, wearing masks because of the coronavirus pandemic, exit a London Underground tube train during the morning rush hour in London on December 2, 2020 as England emerges from a month-long lockdown to combat the spread of Covid-19. - England on December 2 exited a month-long lockdown into a new 3-tiered system of curbs with non-essential retail, leisure centres and salons all reopening but with some sectors, including hospitality, seeing tighter restrictions. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Student Amy Hariot Ingle, 22, from Newcastle University, performing a Covid-19 test on herself, watched by David Black (right) an occupational heath specialist. Amy will be part of a mass testing across the UK starting tomorrow on December 1 2020.
A man stands by a flock of swans by the Jubilee Pond, Wanstead Flats during the lockdown. (Photo by David Mbiyu / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Christmas Lights are lit up in Oxford Circus Londoners are getting ready to go back to tier 2 when a four-week lockdown in England comes to an end next week. (Photo by Pietro Recchia / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
The moon passes behind the Shard skyscraper not long after sunrise in London Tuesday Dec. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Hicks)
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 30: Edinburgh's Bill Mata in action during the PRO14 match between Edinburgh Rugby and Ulster at BT Murrayfield on November 30, 2020, in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Ross MacDonald/SNS Group via Getty Images)
No Parking signs seen outside a school in East London. Schools remain open with all precautions being taken to keep pupils safe since they reopened in September as per Government advice. (Photo by David Mbiyu / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a vial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine Covid-19 candidate vaccine, known as AZD1222, at Wockhardt's pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Wrexham, Wales, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. (Paul Ellis/PA via AP)
EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier walks with his team to Brexit negotiations at a conference centre, followed by anti-Brexit protester Steve Bray, obscured, holding pro-EU placards in London, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. Teams from Britain and the European Union are continuing face-to-face talks on a post-Brexit trade deal with little time remaining. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
CARDIFF, WALES - NOVEMBER 30: A general view of members of the public walking along the Christmas Market outside Cardiff Castle on November 30, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 29: An Anatolian shepherd dog, brought by the owner from Turkey, is seen being taken for a walk at the streets of London, on November 29, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. The dog attracted the attention of people in the streets. (Photo by Yunus Dalgic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Freshley cut trees are loaded onto a trailer at Digby Farm Christmas Trees in Rutland. Families are preparing for Christmas after the UK Government and devolved administrations have agreed a temporary easing of coronavirus restrictions over the festive period, allowing three households to mix in a bubble from December 23 to 27.
A parakeet in a garden in Ealing, London. Photo date: Sunday, November 29, 2020. Photo credit should read: Richard Gray/EMPICS
EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, left, with members of his team as he walks to a conference centre in Westminster in London, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Teams from Britain and the European Union are continuing face-to-face talks on a post-Brexit trade deal in the little remaining time. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Players stand and applaud for a minute in memory of Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona prior to the start during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich, England, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. (Jason Cairnduff/Pool via AP)

On Friday, France's Europe minister Charles Beaune publicly warned his country could veto any agreement if they were not happy with the terms.

But in a sign of tensions within the bloc, Irish premier Micheal Martin – whose country could be one of the biggest losers in the event of no-deal – complained some member states had been putting pressure on to gain "additional information".

He pointedly called for the negotiators to be given the "space" they needed to conclude their discussions.

Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen are expected to speak by telephone on Saturday afternoon.

EU leaders are due to meet on Thursday for a two-day summit in Brussels – their last scheduled gathering of the year – when they could sign-off on any agreement.

Time then has to be found for both Houses of Parliament in the UK and the European parliament to ratify it before the transition period expires.

If there is no agreement the UK will leave the European single market and customs union on December 31 and begin trading with the bloc on World Trade Organisation terms, with the imposition of tariffs and quotas.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has called for the negotiators to be given space to complete a deal (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

In a further complicating factor, the UK Government is bringing back to the Commons legislation enabling it to override elements of Mr Johnson's "divorce" settlement with Brussels in breach of international law.

On Monday, MPs will vote on whether to overturn amendments by the House of Lords which removed the provisions in the UK Internal Market Bill relating to the Irish border.

MPs will then go on later in the week to debate the Taxation (Post-Transition Period) Bill which contains further similar provisions.

The legislation has infuriated the EU and – if it is passed – could further sour the mood in the negotiations making a deal harder to reach.

In their statement, Lord Frost and Mr Barnier said: "After one week of intense negotiation in London, the two chief negotiators agreed today that the conditions for an agreement are not met, due to significant divergences on level playing field, governance and fisheries.

"On this basis, they agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their principals on the state of play of the negotiations."

Read Full Story Click here to comment