London and Brussels’ differences on “critical issues” are hampering last-ditch efforts to sign the Brexit trade deal, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and British PM Boris Johnson said after a 90-minute-long phone call on Monday.

“We agreed that the conditions for finalizing an agreement are not there due to the remaining significant differences,” von der Leyen and Johnson said in a joint statement, issued after the latest talks.

The EU and the UK are still unable to find common ground on “level playing field, governance and fisheries,” according to the statement – key issues which have surfaced again and again in months of crunch talks aimed at securing a deal before the end of the UK’s withdrawal transition period on December 31.

With @BorisJohnson we took stock of the negotiations. The conditions for an agreement are not there due to remaining differences on critical issues. We asked our Chief Negotiators to prepare an overview of the remaining differences to be discussed in person in the coming days.

After fruitless phone calls on Saturday and Monday, the two leaders have decided to meet in person “in the coming days,” and the UK PM will be traveling to Brussels.

Chief negotiators on both sides and their teams have been tasked with preparing an overview of the remaining differences so that von der Leyen and Johnson could discuss them face to face.

The UK is scheduled to exit the European Single Market and European Customs Union on January 1, 2021. Leaving without a deal will force the UK to do business with the bloc in accordance with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, which may well trigger a spike in prices in the country and other economic problems.

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