Britain and European Union negotiators will meet in Brussels on Sunday in what the British team said was a final throw of the dice to clinch a post-Brexit trade deal.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke on Saturday, and instructed their teams to resume the talks in a last ditch attempt to bridge significant differences.
Both sides acknowledge that time is running out to strike a deal before a transition arrangement expires at the end of the year and sources gave a pessimistic readout after Johnson and von der Leyen spoke on Saturday.
“This is the final throw of the dice,” a British source close to the negotiations said.
“There is a fair deal to be done that works for both sides but this will only happen if the EU is willing to respect the fundamental principles of sovereignty and control.”
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that the Sunday talks with his British counterpart David Frost would show whether a new trade deal could be struck.
In a joint statement after their call, Johnson and von der Leyen said that “no agreement is feasible” if differences on the three thorny issues of governance, fisheries and competition rules, known as the level playing field, were not resolved.
Negotiations were paused on Friday after hopes of a deal earlier in the week evaporated, with the British team saying that the EU had made demands incompatible with its sovereignty and warning that the talks could end without agreement.
If they fail to reach a deal, a five-year Brexit divorce will end messily just as Britain and its former EU partners grapple with the economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic.