With week-long Brexit negotiations between Britain and the European Union (EU) ending Friday without a significant breakthrough, the big question was what happens next.
The focus will switch to a planned video conference call Saturday between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
It has left Brexit watchers and political commentators in London wondering Friday night whether the two political heavyweights can find a way through a deadlock.
Johnson said in a media interview Friday it was now up to the EU to avoid a no-deal scenario over post-Brexit trade.
Noting that a deal with Brussels was “all there”, Johnson said Brussels had to be commonsensical to get an agreement across the line, with both sides setting an October deadline to settle their differences.
On the BBC, Johnson said: “I hope that we get a deal, it’s up to our friends (in Brussels).”
He added that the EU had done a deal with Canada of a kind that Britain wanted, adding: “why shouldn’t they do it with us? We’re so near, we’ve been members for 45 years. It’s all there, it’s just up to them.”
This week’s ninth-round of negotiations was billed as the final shot at resolving differences ahead of a critical meeting mid-October of leaders of the 27 EU member states.
The Daily Telegraph in London posed the question Friday “what will come from Johnson and von der Leyen’s powwow?”
The commentary said the president of the commission had made clear that the game was not up yet, as the final scheduled round of UK-EU trade negotiations closed in Brussels.
“Is the Prime Minister limbering up to make some concessions?” asked the Telegraph, citing the fact that Johnson had previously done an about-turn on his insistence there would be no different post-Brexit customs rules between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain.
The future of fishing in the waters around Britain as well as Brussels’ demand for a level playing field on state support by the British government for its industries remain high on the “to-do” list.
The Telegraph asked if Britain agreeing to stay roughly within the EU limits for state subsidies could be a deal-breaker.
Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said familiar differences remained, adding that on fisheries the gap between the two sides was unfortunately very large.
Frost warned that without further realism and flexibility from the EU, there’s a risk of difference being impossible to bridge.
Downing Street confirmed Johnson would speak to the commission president on Saturday afternoon to take stock of negotiations and discuss next steps.
London and Brussels have agreed to continue in talks over the next two weeks ahead of the critical EU summit on Oct. 15.
The Guardian revealed earlier this week that Britain had offered a three-year transition period for European fishing fleets to allow them to prepare for the post-Brexit changes as part of an 11th-hour deal sweetener.
Britain ended its membership of the EU on Jan. 31 but is sticking to the bloc’s trade rules during a transition period which ends on Dec. 31.
With Britain insisting there will be no extension, it could mean trade between the UK and EU conducted under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules from Jan. 1 if no deal is struck by then.