Brexit talks could continue beyond Christmas

General view of the Downing Street Christmas tree lights in London. Photograph: Lauren Hurley/PA.

General view of the Downing Street Christmas tree lights in London. Photograph: Lauren Hurley/PA. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The UK and EU have declined to set a new deadline for Brexit talks, prompting speculation talks could continue beyond Christmas.

There was fresh hope on the prospect of a deal after Boris Johnson and Europe’s top official Ursula von der Leyen agreed to “go the extra mile” and continue discussions beyond Sunday’s initial deadline.

Speaking after the call, Johnson said the UK would not be walking away from the negotiating table and that “where there is life, there is hope”.

The ongoing talks has fuelled speculation that Parliament may be forced to sit over the festive period to vote on any agreement.

Former chief whip Mark Harper, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, said: “It depends on when it is concluded, but many of us are fully anticipating it’s entirely possible we might be returning to Parliament between Christmas and New Year to scrutinise this and vote it through if a deal is done.”

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A French MEP suggested that talks between the UK and EU may continue into 2021 if a deal cannot be reached.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Nathalie Loiseau said: “If there is any chance to reach a deal we will not let it go.

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“There will be a deal one day between the United Kingdom and the European Union, there is no doubt about it.

“If mindsets are ready for a deal in London, well, let’s celebrate. If they are not, then we’ll talk again next year.”

The Times reported that chief negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier are discussing what role independent arbitration could have in resolving disputes in a potential sign that a compromise could be in the offing.

The pair are due to continue talking in Brussels on Monday.

On fishing rights, the row over what access EU trawlers would have to UK waters dramatically escalated over the weekend, with Royal Navy vessels on stand-by to patrol the seas around Britain if there is no deal.

Despite his talks with Von der Leyen in recent days, the Prime Minister remains frustrated that he has not been able to speak directly to key EU national leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

Brussels insists that the commission is leading the negotiations on behalf of the 27 member states so Mr Johnson should continue dealing with Mrs von der Leyen.

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