European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are to hold a videoconference on Saturday, with time running out on their goal of striking a deal on post-Brexit relations.
The two sides are to “to take stock of negotiations and discuss next steps,” according to a British government spokesperson on Friday.
Von der Leyen’s spokesperson in Brussels also announced the talks on Twitter.
Friday also marks the end of the ninth – and for the time-being last – round of negotiations on plans for a massive free trade deal but also on a range of issues on the two sides’ future cooperation.
These talks kicked off at the end of January when Britain formally left the EU, but little progress has been made since.
At the end of the year, the Brexit transition period ends and Britain will leave the EU internal market and customs union.
Without an agreement in a place, there is a threat of serious disruption for businesses and supply chains.
Relations between Brussels and London appeared to hit rock-bottom earlier this week when the commission started legal action over a proposed bill in London that it claims override key parts of the withdrawal agreement, thus breaking international law.
Similarly, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Friday Britain must respect the Brexit arrangements it had agreed with the EU for the sensitive Irish border, after a fraught week with little progress towards a new UK-EU trade deal.
With just under two weeks before Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deadline for reaching a trade agreement, both sides said there were still significant hurdles to finding a way to smooth relations when a transition arrangement ends this year.
Johnson will speak to the head of the EU’s executive, Ursula von der Leyen, on Saturday to assess negotiations on their future relationship and agree next steps after the bloc launched a legal case against Britain over their earlier divorce deal.
Von der Leyen, EU leaders’ chairman Charles Michel and Martin are due to update the summit of the bloc’s 27 national leaders in Brussels on Friday.
The EU and Ireland say Britain’s new Internal Markets Bill threatens the Irish peace.
“I’m looking forward to giving my assessment on the Brexit situation to my colleagues… in particular the importance of protecting (of) and the adherence to the Withdrawal Agreement and the Ireland protocol.
“That is important in terms of trade, protection of jobs,” Martin said.
With time ticking down and some businesses increasingly concerned over what shape trading terms will be in at the end of the year, analysts at United States Citi bank said they expected the two sides to agree “a rudimentary Brexit deal”.
They said the Internal Market Bill, which Britain admits breaks not only international law but also undercuts some of the provisions in the divorce deal, has focused minds on Northern Ireland, which shares a border with EU member Ireland.
The United Kingdom says it must break the divorce deal provisions on Ireland and Northern Ireland to allow England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to trade freely with each other if there is no post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.
But some fear, without a deal, a new hard border on the island of Ireland, which could undermine a 1998 peace accord which mostly ended three decades of sectarian conflict.
United States special envoy for Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney said in London the message he would take back to Washington was that all sides were committed to no return to a hard border.
Beyond Northern Ireland, disagreements remain over state aid, fisheries and ways to solve disputes.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Felix Ajide