LONDON — Boris Johnson will decide Friday whether to persist with stalled Brexit trade talks, after negotiators failed to reach an agreement ahead of the U.K. prime minister's self-imposed deadline of Oct. 15.
There has been "some progress" over competition rules, according to an EU diplomat who didn't want to be named due to the sensitivity of the talks, but both sides claim they have not yet bridged all their differences.
Johnson told EU representatives Wednesday that he was disappointed there had not been more progress over the past two weeks, a spokesperson said. During a phone call with the European Commission and Council presidents, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, Johnson said he would wait for the outcome of a European summit on Thursday "before setting out the U.K.'s next steps."
The 27 heads of state for the EU said on Thursday afternoon that they wanted talks to be stepped up as they believed there were still a few more weeks available to bridge their differences.
"The European Council invites the Unionʼs chief negotiator to continue negotiations in the coming weeks, and calls on the U.K. to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible," they said in a joint statement.
However, their words were not well received in London. The U.K.'s chief negotiator, David Frost, said he was "disappointed" with the language from the EU and confirmed that Johnson will announce on Friday whether he will put an end to trade talks.
The main stumbling block at this stage has been over fisheries, a subject that carries quite a lot of political weight for the U.K. government, but also for some EU countries, including France. There are also differences over competition rules and the future governance of their agreement.
The EU source suggested that a compromise over competition rules could be feasible if both sides were to agree to a resolute dispute settlement system, which in the future could rule on potential trade issues in a matter of "days," not months.
The U.K. stopped being a member of the European Union in January but agreed to keep following all EU rules until the end of 2020 so both sides could have time to put together new trade arrangements.
This means they have until the end of the year to conclude trade talks and get approval for their deal in the U.K. and European parliaments.