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EU, U.K. still at loggerheads in post-Brexit negotiations

With the deadline for a possible extension of the Brexit transition period looming, a fourth round of talks on a future trade deal between the European Union and the U.K. ended Friday without result.

Following four days of video discussions between officials from the two teams of negotiators, the sides remained at loggerheads on many topics, including on regulations for businesses. Their positions on fisheries remain distant, with the U.K. opposed to EU demands for long-term access to British waters.

“There was no significant progress this week,” EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said during a press conference.

The U.K. left the political institutions of the EU on Jan. 31 but remains inside the EU’s tariff-free single market and customs union until the end of the year.

That so-called transition period can be extended by two years to allow more time for a satisfying compromise, yet a request to do so has to be made by July 1. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly said he won’t be asking for a delay.

The best hope for a quick breakthrough now rests on a high-level political meeting between Johnson and the EU’s top official, Ursula Von der Leyen, scheduled for later this month. If they don’t reach an agreement by the end of the year, tariffs and quotas will return on trade between the two sides and the U.K. will be treated as any other non-EU country.

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