European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier resumed make-or-break Brexit talks with British counterpart David Frost in London on Saturday with the clock ticking for a deal on future trading arrangements.
It is the first time they have met face-to-face since Barnier went into self-isolation after a member of his team caught coronavirus.
A failure to reach an agreement would see Britain and the EU trading on World Trade Organization terms, with tariffs immediately imposed on goods travelling to and from the continent.
Britain has been largely trading on the same terms with the EU since it officially left the bloc in January as part of a transition agreement that expires at the end of the year.
As it stands, it will leaves Europe’s trade and customs area in five weeks with talks on a follow-on agreement stalled over fishing rights and fair trade rules.
Both parties warned on Friday that success was not guaranteed, with Barnier tweeting that the ‘same significant divergences persist’.
‘We are not far from the take it or leave it moment,’ he later told ambassadors from member states, according to a European source familiar with the closed-door meeting.
Prime minister Boris Johnson’s lead negotiator Frost said that people were ‘asking me why we are still talking,’ he tweeted.
‘My answer is that it’s my job to do my utmost to see if the conditions for a deal exist. It is late but a deal is still possible, and I will continue to talk until it’s clear that it isn’t.’
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