No Brexit breakthrough for Boris as crunch talks continue tomorrow

Boris Johnson’s negotiating team will continue Brexit crunch talks tomorrow after the prime minister failed to make a breakthrough during a phone call with the European Commission president.

The prime minister spoke with Ursula von der Leyen this afternoon after the two sides admitted there were still ‘significant divergences’ with just weeks to go until the transition period is over.

Discussions are still stuck on three ‘crucial issues’ with ‘no agreement feasible’ if these are not resolved, it was said tonight.

A joint statement from Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen read: ‘In a phone call today on the on-going negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, we welcomed the fact that progress has been achieved in many areas.

‘Nevertheless, significant differences remain on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries. Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved.

‘Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved.

‘We are therefore instructing our chief negotiators to reconvene tomorrow in Brussels. We will speak again on Monday evening.’

Ms Von Der Leyen added on Twitter: ‘Differences remain. No agreement feasible if these are not resolved. Chief negotiators will reconvene tomorrow. We will speak again on Monday.’

The outstanding issues – fisheries, the so-called ‘level-playing field’ rules on fair competition, and the governance arrangements for any deal – have been known for months.

It remains unclear whether either side is prepared to shift their stance to enable their negotiators to bridge the gaps.

A Downing Street spokesperson recently admitted ‘time is in short supply’ to get past this ‘difficult point’.

Many were hoping differences could be resolved this week but UK sources have accused the EU of trying to ‘introduce new elements’ at the 11th hour.

The British side was angered by reported demands by Brussels that EU fishermen should continue to enjoy the same access to UK waters for another 10 years.

There was concern that Mr Barnier was coming under pressure from French President Emmanuel Macron.

The situation has led to increased tension in the EU, with France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune warning his country could veto any agreement if it did not satisfy their conditions.

Irish premier Micheal Martin, whose country is among those most anxious to get an agreement, welcomed the announcement that the talks would continue.

He tweeted tonight: ‘An agreement is in everyone’s best interests. Every effort should be made to reach a deal.’

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