After one week of intense trade negotiations in London, the chief intermediaries from Britain and the European Union (EU) agreed on Friday to put the talks on hold due to “significant divergences.”

Releasing identical statements on Twitter, UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier said “the conditions for an agreement are not met due to significant divergences on the level playing field, governance and fisheries. The two sides have agreed to pause the talks in order to brief their Principals on the situation of the negotiations”.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will now take the discussions forward on Saturday afternoon, it said. The leaders will hold a telephone call, as their envoys – Michel Barnier and David Frost – broke up after an arduous week of meetings without a breakthrough. Britain and the EU had resumed face-to-face talks in London last week after an EU negotiator tested positive for coronavirus earlier in November.

The talks that have dragged for eight months are at a crucial stage as time is running out for both sides to secure a deal before the Brexit transition period expires on December 31. Britain is set to leave the EU single market at the end of the year with or without a trade agreement. Failure to reach a free trade agreement with the EU means bilateral trade will depend on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules in 2021.