Brexit talks could go on past Christmas as UK and EU vow to ‘go extra mile’

Brexit talks could go right to the wire after the UK and European Union refused to set a new deadline following the decision to continue negotiating over a trade deal.

There was fresh hope on the prospect of a deal after Boris Johnson and Europe's top official Ursula von der Leyen agreed to "go the extra mile" and continue discussions beyond Sunday's initial deadline.

With no cut-off date given for when the talks must wrap up, it leaves the door open for the wrangling to go on until December 31 – when the transitional arrangements are due to cease.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has still not published the dates for MPs' Christmas holiday, leaving those on the green benches braced to be called in to Westminster over the festive season to vote on a possible UK-EU trade deal.

Former chief whip Mark Harper, speaking to BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour, said: "It depends on when it is concluded, but many of us are fully anticipating it's entirely possible we might be returning to Parliament between Christmas and new year to scrutinise this and vote it through if a deal is done."

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BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 20: The two cars of the UK delegation are waiting in the parking of the Berlaymont, the EU Commission headquarter on December 20, 2020, in Brussels, Belgium. European Union and the United Kingdom are still working on a "last attempt" to find a post-Brexit trade deal. EU fishing rights in United Kingdom waters the most notable remaining obstacle to avoid a chaotic and costly changeover on New Year 2020/2021. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
The Dover Traffic Access Protocol (TAP) scheme on the A20 is seen in action as freight lorries queue on the main route into the port of Dover on the south coast of England on December 17, 2020. - Questions were asked in the House of Lords today on the government's state of preparedness for Brexit. UK importers are suffering from delays at Felixstowe and Southampton and there are fears of major delays at Dover from the new year. (Photo by BEN STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Work continues on the area near Sevington in Ashford, Kent, where the government is developing the 27-acre site near the town into a post-Brexit lorry park as efforts continue to strike a post-Brexit trade deal. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Lobsters are processed at the fishing port at Bridlington Harbour in Yorkshire, after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she and Boris Johnson had agreed to Ògo the extra mileÓ and continue negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shipping containers are unloaded from a cargo ship at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk. Shipments of personal protective equipment have been clogging UK ports, causing huge delays compounded by retailers and manufacturers importing goods for the Christmas shopping rush. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)
An aerial view shows lorry freight trailers parked on the quayside at Holyhead Port in Holyhead, north west Wales on December 14, 2020. - Food shortages, tailbacks and congested ports: as talks with Brussels remain unresolved three weeks before leaving the EU single market, the UK is preparing for a chaotic "no-deal". Failure to secure a deal in time for the end of the transition period on December 31 would see Britain revert to World Trade Organization rules, with tariffs and quotas, from January 1. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A festive wreath hangs on the door of 10 Downing Street in central London on December 13, 2020, as the leaders of Britain and the European Union agree to contine talks beyond the latest deadline. - Britain due to leave the EU single market in 19 days. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen removes her face mask as she arrives for a press statement following a phone call meeting with Britain's Prime Minister, at the European Commission in Brussels on December 13, 2020. - A negotiations phase of eleven months that started on January 31, 2020 following the UK's exit from the EU ends on December 31, 2020. (Photo by Olivier HOSLET / POOL / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER HOSLET/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The Royal Navy River-class offshore patrol vessel HMS Mersey at anchor in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, one of four river patrol vessels put on standby by the Government to guard against European trawlers entering UK territory if the trade talks with Brussels fail. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab wearing a protective face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus, arrives at the BBC in central London on December 13, 2020, to appear on the BBC political programme The Andrew Marr Show. - Sunday is just the latest in a string of supposedly hard deadlines for the negotiations but, with Britain due to leave the EU single market in 19 days, tensions are rising. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
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)
Outging Honda vehicles are parked at Southampton Docks in Southampton on the south coast of England on December 11, 2020. - Food shortages, tailbacks and congested ports: as talks with Brussels remain unresolved three weeks before leaving the EU single market, the UK is preparing for a chaotic "no-deal". (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A fisherman sorts and loads trays of salmon heads to be used as bait for crab and lobster pots as he prepares for their next voyage to sea, on the South Pier of Bridlington Harbour fishing port in Bridlington, north east England on December 11, 2020. - A Brexit trade deal between Britain and the European Union looked to be hanging in the balance on Friday, after leaders on both sides of the Channel gave a gloomy assessment of progress in last-gasp talks. Trade talks between the UK and the EU continue in Brussels with EU members' future access to Britain's rich fishing waters remaining a major sticking point. (Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP) (Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
The offices of banking giants Citi, HSBC and Barclays are pictured at the the secondary central business district of Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs, east London on December 11, 2020. - A Brexit trade deal between Britain and the European Union looked to be hanging in the balance on Friday, after leaders on both sides of the Channel gave a gloomy assessment of progress in last-gasp talks. The Bank of England said Friday that UK banks remained "resilient" to the risks of Brexit and coronavirus, but warned financial services could face "disruption" when the transition period ends. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Freight lorries are seen queuing as they enter the port of Dover on the south coast of England on December 10, 2020. - Big queues of lorries snaked into the port of Dover on England's south coast for another day with high volumes of freight traffic and disruption at other cargo ports put down to Brexit stockpiling, pre-Christmas build up and transport of medical supplies for Covid care increasing demand. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Lorries queue to access the Port of Dover in Kent as the Dover TAP (Traffic Access Protocol) is implemented due to high volumes of freight traffic while the clock ticks down on the chance for the UK to strike a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
Freight lorries queue on the main route into the port of Dover on the south coast of England on December 10, 2020. - Big queues of lorries snaked into the port of Dover on England's south coast for another day with high volumes of freight traffic and disruption at other cargo ports put down to Brexit stockpiling, pre-Christmas build up and transport of medical supplies for Covid care increasing demand. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
LONDON, Dec. 9, 2020 -- An anti-Brexit demonstrator stands outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, on Dec. 9, 2020. The European Union EU and Britain will come to a decision on a post-Brexit trade deal by the end of the coming weekend, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Wednesday evening after meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Brussels. Both leaders have agreed that a firm decision about the future of the talks should be taken by Sunday. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
Lorries queue for the Port of Dover along the A20 in Kent as the Dover TAP (Traffic Access Protocol) is implemented due to high volumes of freight traffic while the clock ticks down on the chance for the UK to strike a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, Dec. 9, 2020 -- Anti-Brexit demonstrators stand outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, on Dec. 9, 2020. The European Union EU and Britain will come to a decision on a post-Brexit trade deal by the end of the coming weekend, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Wednesday evening after meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Brussels. Both leaders have agreed that a firm decision about the future of the talks should be taken by Sunday. (Photo by Han Yan/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 09: Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen meet for a dinner during they will try to reach a breakthrough on a post-Brexit trade deal on December 9, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. The British prime minister's visit marked his most high-profile involvement in the talks over a post-Brexit trade deal, which has remained elusive despite months of EU and UK negotiating teams shuttling between London and Brussels. (Photo by Aaron Chown - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves in a car after a post-Brexit talks' working dinner at the EU headquarters on December 9, 2020 in Brussels. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met EU chief Ursula von der Leyen for a working dinner that could save -- or kill off -- hopes for a post-Brexit trade deal. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)
LONDON, Dec. 5, 2020 -- Photo taken on Dec. 5, 2020 shows the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Saturday that trade talks between the two sides will reconvene in Brussels on Sunday, even though "significant differences remain." (Photo by Ray Tang/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Han Yan/Ray Tang via Getty Images)
A P&O ferry is seen at the Port of Larne in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland on December 5, 2020. - The port, which handles travel and freight from Scotland, is expected to be having a new Border Control Post (BCP) built there as a consequence of Brexit. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP) (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)
A police officer with Larry the cat in Downing Street, London. 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. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 05: EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a statement on the ongoing Brexit negotiations on December 5, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. Current trading rules between the United Kingdom and the European Union expire December 31, the end of a transition period following the UK departure from the group in January of this year. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, wearing a protective face mask, arrives at Brussels Midi station, December 5, 2020 after the last round of Brexit talks in London. - With just a month until Britain's post-Brexit future begins and trade talks with the European Union still deadlocked, the UK government has urged firms to prepare as it scrambles to finish essential infrastructure. (Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP) (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)
An anti-Brexit protester stands with Union and Eu flags outside a conference centre in central London on December 4, 2020, as talks continue on a trade deal between the EU and the UK. - With just a month until Britain's post-Brexit future begins and trade talks with the European Union still deadlocked, the UK government on Tuesday urged firms to prepare as it scrambles to finish essential infrastructure. (Photo by Niklas HALLE'N / AFP) (Photo by NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images)
The sun sets behind the Palace of Westminster, the home of the Houses of Parliament in central London on December 4, 2020, as talks continue in London on a trade deal between the EU and the UK. - With just a month until Britain's post-Brexit future begins and trade talks with the European Union still deadlocked, the UK government on Tuesday urged firms to prepare as it scrambles to finish essential infrastructure. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Anti-Brexiteer activist Steve Bray holds placards and an EU-themed umbrella as he stands outside a conference centre in central London on December 4, 2020, as talks continue on a trade deal between the EU and the UK. - With just a month until Britain's post-Brexit future begins and trade talks with the European Union still deadlocked, the UK government on Tuesday urged firms to prepare as it scrambles to finish essential infrastructure. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Pedestrians cross Westminster Bridge as the sun sets behind the Palace of Westminster, the home of the Houses of Parliament in London on December 4, 2020, as talks continue in London on a trade deal between the EU and the UK. - With just a month until Britain's post-Brexit future begins and trade talks with the European Union still deadlocked, the UK government on Tuesday urged firms to prepare as it scrambles to finish essential infrastructure. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Ani-Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in central London as negotiations on the future partnership between the UK and the EU continue, on December 02, 2020 in London, England. This week is seen as crucial in talks between Britain and the EU if an agreement is to be reached as Brexit transition period is set to expire at the end of the month. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
An Anti-Brexit demonstrator hold placards as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier (C), wearing a protective face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus, and members of his team, walks through central London on November 30, 2020 after leaving the conference centre where talks continue on a trade deal between the EU and the UK. - Last-ditch Brexit trade talks continued in London with fishing rights remaining an "outstanding major bone of contention," according to British foreign minister Dominic Raab. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, wearing a protective face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus, walks to a conference centre in central London on December 3, 2020 as talks continue on a trade deal between the EU and the UK. - With just a month until Britain's post-Brexit future begins and trade talks with the European Union still deadlocked, the UK government on Tuesday urged firms to prepare as it scrambles to finish essential infrastructure. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Ani-Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in central London as negotiations on the future partnership between the UK and the EU continue, on December 02, 2020 in London, England. This week is seen as crucial in talks between Britain and the EU if an agreement is to be reached as Brexit transition period is set to expire at the end of the month. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Ani-Brexit demonstrators protest outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in central London as negotiations on the future partnership between the UK and the EU continue, on December 02, 2020 in London, England. This week is seen as crucial in talks between Britain and the EU if an agreement is to be reached as Brexit transition period is set to expire at the end of the month. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in central London to attend Cabinet meeting held at the Foreign Office on 01 December, 2020 in London, England. Today MPs in the House of Commons will vote on the new tiered Coronavirus restrictions as the four week lockdown across England comes to an end. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A member of the media struggles to keep his equipment covered in the rain as he waits outside a conference centre where talks continue on a trade deal between the EU and the UK, in central London on December 3, 2020. - With just a month until Britain's post-Brexit future begins and trade talks with the European Union still deadlocked, the UK government on Tuesday urged firms to prepare as it scrambles to finish essential infrastructure. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
An Anti-Brexit demonstrator hold placards as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier (C), wearing a protective face covering to combat the spread of the coronavirus, and members of his team, walks through central London on November 30, 2020 after leaving the conference centre where talks continue on a trade deal between the EU and the UK. - Last-ditch Brexit trade talks continued in London with fishing rights remaining an "outstanding major bone of contention," according to British foreign minister Dominic Raab. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, wearing a face covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, gestures as he passes anti-Brexit demonstrator Steve Bray whilst exiting a 'Pret a Manger' coffee shop in London on November 30, 2020. - Last-ditch Brexit trade talks continued in London on Sunday with fishing rights remaining an "outstanding major bone of contention," according to British foreign minister Dominic Raab. European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters that "work continues, even on a Sunday," as he arrived for the second day of talks. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier arrives at the BEIS Conference Centre, central London, for ongoing talks to strike a post-Brexit trade deal. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
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Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that Labour was "minded" to vote for a deal in a sign that, should consensus be reached in Brussels, the terms of any future relationship with Britain's largest trading partner would face little opposition in Parliament.

The Prime Minister and European Commission president Ms von der Leyen – who spoke for 20 minutes on the phone in a conversation described as perfectly cordial, by sources – averted a no-deal outcome over the weekend by agreeing to continue trying to find a compromise on the outstanding blockages.

Mr Johnson, speaking after the call, said the UK would not be walking away from the negotiating table and that "where there is life, there is hope".

But the Conservative leader continued to warn that a no-deal outcome was still the most likely scenario.

He said the country should get ready for the breakdown of talks, resulting in tariffs under World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms from January 1 – a move that is predicted to cost jobs, cause food prices to rise and wipe £45 billion off the economy next year.

"The most likely thing now is, of course, that we have to get ready for WTO terms, Australia terms," the Prime Minister said.

But the agreement to continue talking beyond the Sunday deadline set by Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen does indicate that progress could be possible.

The pair agreed to "keep going for as long as they still think a deal is possible", a source said.

A joint statement issued by the two leaders said: "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."

After updating the Cabinet on his talks with the Commission chief, Mr Johnson told reporters the UK would be "as creative as we possibly can" in search of an agreement but stressed that there were fundamentals that could not be compromised, such as "being able to control our laws, control our fisheries".

"I think our friends get it, and we remain willing to talk and will continue to do so," he added.

The major sticking points in the negotiations – as they have been for months – are on fishing rights and the "level playing field" which Brussels wants to prevent unfair competition from the UK undercutting EU standards and state subsidy rules.

Brexit talks

Mr Johnson has said that no prime minister could accept a situation where the EU could automatically "punish" the UK if it failed to follow future regulations from Brussels.

If that "ratchet clause" was watered down, there could be the possibility of a deal – the UK side has already indicated it would not regress from existing EU standards on issues such as workers' rights and environmental protections.

The Times reported that chief negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier are discussing what role independent arbitration could have in resolving disputes in a potential sign that a compromise could be in the offing.

The pair are due to continue talking in Brussels on Monday.

On fishing rights, the row over what access EU trawlers would have to UK waters dramatically escalated over the weekend, with Royal Navy vessels on stand-by to patrol the seas around Britain if there is no deal.

Despite his talks with Mrs von der Leyen in recent days, the Prime Minister remains frustrated that he has not been able to speak directly to key EU national leaders including Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Emmanuel Macron.

Brussels insists that the Commission is leading the negotiations on behalf of the 27 member states so Mr Johnson should continue dealing with Mrs von der Leyen.

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