Brexit trade talks could continue beyond the newly-agreed Sunday deadline, foreign secretary Dominic Raab has hinted.
Raab was reticent to confirm Sunday’s deadline as a final cut-off, saying that “you can never say never” with EU negotiations.
His comment came as Boris Johnson and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed to scrap Thursday’s deadline in favour of a four day extension during a last-minute meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
Negotiators will now continue talks in the EU capital but hopes of a deal remain subdued after both leaders warned “very large gaps” remained over issues such as the so-called level playing field, fisheries, and the role of the European Court of Justice.
Discussing the new timeline on Sky News, Raab said: “We need some point of finality so we can give some certainty so [businesses] know which set of rules and which approaches and declarations they need to adhere to.
“That’s why Sunday, I think, is an important moment but you can never say never with these talks.”
Asked if Sunday was in fact a “hard deadline”, Raab added: “I think we view it as a point of finality but I’m a bit reticent ever to say it because you can never say never with these EU negotiations and of course it depends on if the EU moves.
“If the EU moves substantially and actually what we’re doing is dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, that might be different.
“But without movement on the three areas I described then I think that will be a point of finality.”
This is the third time both sides have agreed to push back the deadline after the dates set in October and mid-November lapsed without progress on a deal.
Thursday had been seen as a “solid” end as it coincided with an EU summit that would have allowed leaders from all 27 EU member states to “rubber stamp” a deal.
Britain will be forced to trade on World Trade Organisation terms with Europe if an agreement is not reached by the end of the Brexit transition period of December 31.