Against all expectations Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, have agreed to extend post-Brexit trade talks beyond the previously agreed Sunday (December 13) deadline.
In a joint statement, Johnson and von der Leyen claimed it was “responsible at this point to go the extra mile”.
The unexpected statement was issued after the two leaders held a phone call in which they discussed “major unresolved topics”.
Johnson and von der Leyen have reportedly instructed their negotiators in Brussels to continue talking “to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached”.
UK and EU negotiators must agree a deal – and have it ratified by their respective parliaments – by December 31.
But the PM has tried to dampen down expectations of a quick breakthrough by once again saying that a “no deal scenario” was “most likely”.
"As far as I can see, there are some serious and very difficult issues that currently separate the UK from EU and the best thing to do now for everybody… [is to] get ready to trade on WTO [World Trade Organization] terms", the PM added.
But underscoring the unrelenting political pressure for a deal, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Micheál Martin, said he believes a no-deal scenario constitutes “an appalling failure of statecraft” on both sides.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Martin beseeched both sides to concentrate any remaining “energy” on “negotiating a deal”.
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