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Brussels talks

Sunday deadline for Johnson to strike Brexit deal

Still far apart: Ursula von der Leyen and Boris Johnson

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have set a final deadline of Sunday to take a “firm decision” about the future of trade talks.

Further discussions will take place today but sources say there remain “very large gaps” between them.

In a statement after the meeting, Ms von der Leyen said negotiators would resume work immediately. “We had a lively and interesting discussion on the state of play across the list of outstanding issues,” she said. “We gained a clear understanding of each others positions. They remain far apart.

“The teams should immediately reconvene to try to resolve these issues. We will come to a decision by the end of the weekend.”

The PM and the EC president talked over dinner for more than three hours at the commission’s HQ in Brussels. 

The outcome was an order that the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK’s Lord Frost re-engage, on the understanding that unless a resolution has emerged within four days the talks will be over.

However, the pair have months of talks and remain divided over the key issues of access to UK waters, the level playing field and competition rules. If there is no deal the UK will trade with the EU on WTO rules.

Mr Johnson had earlier told MPs that no prime minister could accept the demands the EU is making, which would deny the UK its sovereignty.

Tory MPs urged Mr Johnson not to surrender his ‘red lines’ but Opposition MPs turned up the heat on the Prime Minister. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the PM of bungling the negotiations, saying: “Secure the deal, Prime Minister. You promised it.”

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