London — Trade talks between the UK and EU are set to be extended beyond this weekend’s informal deadline and continue in Brussels next week, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Negotiators have been working around the clock in London since Monday, with both sides pinpointing the end of this week as the last moment they could strike a deal while still allowing enough time for parliamentary ratification before the UK leaves the bloc’s single market on December 31.

While the talks haven’t reached a conclusion, officials think there is enough progress to warrant carrying on. They will probably resume in Brussels, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“We can get a deal done,” Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney told a Dublin webinar on Wednesday. “If we can’t get a deal done, it will represent an extraordinary failure of politics and diplomacy. Everybody wants a deal here. And the cost of failure is what will motivate people to hopefully agree to sensible compromise.”

One of the people warned there were now only a few days left to reach an agreement and pointed to a video-conference of the EU’s 27 leaders on November 19 as a possible deadline. That would allow them to approve any deal on the call.

Officials close to the talks said that negotiators are making progress this week and the extension into next week should be seen as a signal both sides believe an agreement is in sight.

Time is tight because the UK and European parliaments need to ratify any agreement before the end of 2020. While this could be done in a matter of days in the British parliament, the EU side needs longer. European legislatorss want the text to scrutinise in committees before a vote in their last plenary session, which begins on December 14.

On Saturday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said after a phone call that large differences — notably on access to British fishing waters and the level playing field for business — still needed to be bridged if there were to be an agreement.

Both sides said they were redoubling their efforts this week.


Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.