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Boris Johnson: UK ready to 'explore every avenue' for Brexit talks

Saleha Riaz
·3-min read
Boris Johnson underlined that a deal was better for both sides. Photo: Aaron Chown/Pool Photo via AP
Boris Johnson underlined that a deal was better for both sides. Photo: Aaron Chown/Pool Photo via AP

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said the country is committed to “exploring every avenue” to reach an agreement on Brexit talks, in a phone call to France’s President Macron in which he also urged the need for progress to be made in the coming days.

A statement by 10 Downing Street showed that Johnson underlined that a deal was better for both sides, but that the UK was “prepared to end the transition period on Australia-style terms if an agreement could not be found.”

Johnson also urged the need for progress to be made in the coming days to bridge the significant gaps, notably in the areas of fisheries and the level playing field.

The news comes as time ticks away in trade negotiations between the UK and EU. UK prime minister Boris Johnson has set a deadline of 15 October to reach a deal, pledging to walk away from talks if no deal is forthcoming by then.

READ MORE: City of London in last ditch plea for Brexit trade deal

Speculation has been mounting that talks could drag on beyond that deadline but whatever happens the UK will exit the Brexit transition period on 1 January 2021, meaning negotiators will still only have weeks to reach a deal.

The Times reported that Lord Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator, and Michel Barnier, his EU counterpart, have agreed that even if a wider deal proves impossible to reach, contact will continue. This comes ahead of next week’s crucial EU summit.

In such an event the two parties would spend next month trying to put together “mini-deals” for industries such as aviation and road transport to offset the likely disruption when the transition period ends, The Times said.

UK’s financial services industry has made a last ditch plea to the government to reach a Brexit trade deal with the EU.

TheCityUK, a lobbying group for British finance companies, earlier this week said a trade deal was of vital importance to preserving the UK’s banking and professional services sector.

READ MORE: What chancellor Rishi Sunak's latest announcements mean

Meanwhile, the UK economy is expected to stall in the coming months — and may even go into reverse — as it faces the threat not only of Brexit but also the COVID-19 second wave and the end of the government’s furlough scheme.

NIESR is forecasting 0% GDP growth in September, growth of 1.5% in the third quarter and 1.3% in the fourth quarter. That would leave the economy still well below pandemic levels.

Bank of America expects the UK economy to grow by 0% in the final three months of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. However, on Friday the investment bank said there were mounting “downside risks to our forecasts” — suggesting it believes the UK economy may even shrink in the coming months.

Watch: What is a no-deal Brexit and what are the potential consequences?