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Boris Johnson signals momentum in Brexit talks

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson outside 10 Downing Street, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, June 10, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
On Saturday, Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed during a phone call to “redouble efforts” to reach a Brexit trade deal. Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville

Prime minister Boris Johnson signalled progress in Brexit talks on Sunday, saying a deal with the EU was “there to be done.”

Talks have stagnated in recent weeks after months of wrangling between the two sides. Johnson’s most recent comments suggest that the feeling was mutual in Brussels that the broad outline of the agreement is “pretty clear.”

On Saturday, Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen agreed during a phone call to “redouble efforts” to reach a Brexit trade deal.

The pair have agreed to be in “personal contact” about the discussions.

Johnson has told von der Leyen that “significant differences” remained in the UK-EU negotiations, with the two sides continuing to disagree over fishing rights and a level playing field agreement.

Despite optimism, there are still considerable differences between the two sides positions.

The clock is ticking to agree a deal before mid-November.

Talks will resume between EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK’s David Frost, the PM has said.

Some businesses are hoping that the time pressure, alongside the COVID-19 factor will focus efforts to try to avoid disruption when the deadline comes at the end of the year.

Johnson told reporters: “I’ve always been a great enthusiast for a trade deal with our European friends and partners.

“I think it’s there to be done, the broad outlines are pretty clear. We just need to get on and do it if we can. And I said that to (European Commission President) Ursula Von der Leyen just yesterday (7 November). And she totally agrees with me.”

READ MORE: Brexit: UK and EU agree to intensify efforts for a deal amid 'significant differences'

Issues with competition and fisheries have held an agreement back since Britain left the EU in January, and each side has refused to compromise on the finer points of these.

It comes after, The National Audit Office (NAO) warned on Friday that Britain’s trade with the EU will face “significant disruption” when the Brexit transition ends, irrespective of a trade deal.

NAO said that COVID-19 thwarted preparations for the new border controls. This meant there was a “high risk” traders would still not be ready when the new measures kick in.

The controls are due to come into place on 1 January, the day after the transition period ends.

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