London and Brussels agreed on Sunday to “go the extra mile” in coming days to try to reach an elusive trade agreement despite missing their latest deadline to avert a turbulent exit for Britain from the European Union’s orbit at the end of the month.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the president of the EU’s executive Commission, Ursula von der Leyen had given negotiators a Sunday deadline to find a way to resolve an impasse on arrangements that would guarantee Britain zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the EU’s single market.
On Sunday they mandated negotiators to continue, although Johnson sounded a downbeat note on prospects for a breakthrough.
“Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile,” Johnson and von der Leyen said in a joint statement.
Britain quit the EU in January but remains an informal member until December 31 – the end of a transition period during which it has remained in the EU single market and customs union.
Johnson said the two sides would try to be as creative as possible but Britain could not compromise on key “red lines” so the most likely option was no deal, with trade reverting to the non-concessionary terms set by the World Trade Organization.
A final Brexit without a trade deal would damage the economies of Europe, send shockwaves through financial markets, snarl borders and sow chaos through the delicate supply chains across Europe and beyond.
“Every opportunity to reach a deal is highly welcome,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin.