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UK, EU agree to continue Brexit trade talks

BBC

The UK and EU have agreed to carry on post-Brexit trade talks after a call between leaders on Sunday.

In a joint statement, Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it was “responsible at this point to go the extra mile”.

The pair discussed “major unresolved topics” during their call.

The two sides had said Sunday was the deadline for a decision on whether to continue with talks, with the UK set leave EU rules at the end of the month.

But they agreed to tell negotiators to carry on talks in Brussels “to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached”.

They did not set say how long these talks would continue, but the ultimate deadline is 31 December, and time must be allowed for the UK and European Parliament to vote on any deal that emerges.

Von der Leyen said Sunday’s call with  Johnson had been “constructive and useful”.

But Johnson repeated his warning from earlier in the week that a no deal scenario was “most likely”.

The UK and EU have been carrying out negotiations for a post-Brexit trade deal since March and are attempting to secure one before the so-called transition period end on 31 December – when the two sides would move to trading on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Without a trade deal, tariffs – charges on goods being bought and sold between the two sides – could be introduced and, in turn, prices on certain products may go up.

There are two key sticking points preventing an agreement – competition rules and fishing rights – and negotiators will now continue to sort these issues out.

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Speaking from the Commission in Brussels, Von der Leyen read out a joint statement, saying: “Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over, we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.”

Johnson later said “where there is life, there is hope”, and that the UK “certainly won’t be walking away from the talks.

But he added: “I’ve got to repeat the most likely thing now is of course that we have to get ready for WTO terms.

“As far as I can see, there are some serious and very difficult issues that currently separate the UK from EU and the best thing to do now for everybody… [is to] get ready to trade on WTO terms.”

Labour called on the government “deliver on the promise” of securing a deal to “allow us to move on as a country”.

 

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