Ahead of Boris Johnson's dinner with Ursula von der Leyen, the hope in government had been that the discussion would provide the political intervention required to continue talks and provide momentum. Following a three-hour dinner of steamed turbot and scallops, UK officials have got at least part of their wish. While the mood music remains rather gloomy, the pair have agreed that their negotiating teams will have further discussions in the coming days — before making a call on the state of play on Sunday.
However, significant differences remain — a senior No. 10 source used a statement following the meeting to emphasise the obstacles facing the two sides:
“The PM and VDL had a frank discussion about the significant obstacles which remain in the negotiations. Very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged. The PM and VDL agreed to further discussions over the next few days between their negotiating teams. The PM does not want to leave any route to a possible deal untested. The PM and VDL agreed that by Sunday a firm decision should be taken about the future of the talks.
That promise of a 'firm decision' by Sunday on whether talks continue means there is a new Brexit deadline. While a deal is still viewed as ambitious by the weekend, it is possible that by Sunday the talks could come to an end and a no-deal Brexit is on the cards. There is still enough wriggle room, however, in that statement for Sunday to come and go with little more in the way of clarity. There's still a chance that talks continue for weeks to come.