Sunday Is The New “Point Of Finality” For The Brexit Talks Says Dominic Raab
After dinner between Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen last night failed to break UK-EU deadlock, Sunday has become the new “a point of finality” in the Brexit talks.
The Prime Minister and the European Commission president said a “firm decision” must be made about whether negotiations on a deal can continue by the end of the weekend after they agreed they were still “far apart” on the outstanding issues following their meeting in Brussels.
And the foreign secretary suggested this was now being treated as a hard deadline by the government to decide whether a free trade agreement is still possible.
This follows a week of so-called "hard deadlines", dictated by activities in the House of Commons, and Thursday's European Council summit.
Raab told Sky News: "I think we view it as a point when we need some finality. I’m just a bit reticent ever to say - you can never say never with these EU negotiations.
"Of course, it depends if the EU moves. If the EU moves substantially and actually we're only dotting a few Is or crossing a few Ts, it might be different.
"But I think without movement on the crucial two, three areas that I've described, I think that will be a point of finality.
"And that's certainly the way the UK side is approaching it."
And appealing on BBC Breakfast Mr Raab said it was "unlikely" talks will be extended beyond Sunday, adding: "I think it's unlikely but I can't categorically exclude it.
"It depends on the progress made between now and then."
After Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen’s dinner, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The leaders had a frank discussion about the state of play in the negotiations.
“They acknowledged that the situation remained very difficult and there were still major differences between the two sides.
“They agreed that chief negotiators would continue talks over the next few days and that a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks by Sunday.”
And the EU boss tweeted: “We had a lively & interesting discussion on the state of play on outstanding issues. We understand each other’s positions. They remain far apart.
“The teams should immediately reconvene to try to resolve these issues. We will come to a decision by the end of the weekend.”
Asked about the dinner, Mr Raab said: "It's fair to say that whilst there was a good conversation last night, and it was frank and it was candid, the significant points of difference remain.
"I don't think we can keep going on at that pace without having some progress and some flexibility.
"Particularly from the UK side, we look at the differences on fairly key points of principle - fairly narrow in scope, we are talking about fisheries, level playing field commitments, the EU's attempt to lock us in to their rules - we need to see substantial movement."
He said Mr Johnson would "leave no stone unturned" in the search for a deal but so far "frankly we have not seen enough pragmatism and flexibility on the EU side".
The senior Cabinet minister later told BBC Radio 4's Today programmer the UK would not "sacrifice" its ability to control fishing waters and laws on standards to reach a trade deal.
He added: ”We've agreed that we'd follow the EU's approach to free trade deals with countries like Canada and Korea in relation to the so called level playing field requirements.
"What we're not going to be treated... is in a way that no other country would accept, and nor would the EU accept.
"It's about some basic respect for democratic principles.
"We're ready to leave the transition period - we would much prefer a deal, no stone is being left unturned - but otherwise we'll make a success of Brexit on Australian-style rules.”