Britain and European Union negotiators will resume trade talks on Friday with both sides warning that they remained far apart on a number of issues and that it was becoming more likely they would fail to reach an agreement.
Less than two weeks before Britain finally leaves the bloc’s orbit, both say big difference remain, with fisheries seen as a major stumbling block to a deal which would safeguard almost a trillion dollars worth of trade from tariffs and quotas when a so-called transition period ends on Dec. 31.
“It is a very serious situation. We will test every route to seeking a free trade agreement with the European Union, but we cannot do so at the expense of our national sovereignty,” Britain’s schools minister Nick Gibb told Sky News.
He was echoing a similar message from Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost and Prime Minister Boris Johnson who spoke to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen late on Thursday to take stock of the situation.
Johnson’s office said time was running out and the EU had to change its position substantially.
Von der Leyen said progress had been made but bridging the divide on some areas, especially fisheries, would be “very challenging”.
Johnson and his government say they want a deal but are happy to walk away and trade on World Trade Organization rules, saying this would still be a good outcome.
Senior British minister Michael Gove on Thursday put the chances of getting a deal at less than 50%.
“The EU will have to move if we are going to secure that deal… We’ll test every route, but we are prepared for a no free trade deal arrangement,” Gibb said.