UK PM Johnson says trade deal up to EU

by Jonathan Adams

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is due to meet PM Johnson via video call to decide the next steps

Boris Johnson has said it is now up to the EU to avoid a no-deal scenario over post-Brexit trade.

After the final round of formal talks between officials, the prime minister said a deal was “all there”.

But the prime minister said Brussels had to be “commonsensical” to get it across the line, with both sides setting an October deadline to settle their differences.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for talks to “intensify”.

She is due to meet Mr Johnson on Saturday via video call to “take stock” of the situation and decide the next steps.

Talks between chief negotiators Lord David Frost and Michel Barnier broke up earlier, without an agreement.

Mr Barnier said “persistent serious divergences” remained between the two sides, while Lord Frost said there was “very little time now to resolve these issues”.

The UK formally left the EU in January, but entered a transition period – where the UK has kept to EU trading rules and remained inside its customs union and single market – to allow the two sides to negotiate a trade deal.

Formal talks began in March and continued throughout the pandemic, but there have been concerns over whether a plan would be agreed before that period runs out on 31 December.

Issues that have become particular sticking points between negotiators are state aid – where governments give financial support to businesses – and fishing rules.

The EU has said a deal must be reached before the end of October to allow it to be signed off by the member states before the end of the year, while Mr Johnson has said both sides should “move on” if agreement was not reached by the middle of the month.

If a deal is not done, the UK will go on to trade with the bloc on World Trade Organisation rules.

Speaking ahead of her call with the UK prime minister, Mrs von der Leyen said: We should not forget we have made progress in many many different fields, but of course the most difficult ones are still completely open.

She pointed to the problems with the so-called “level playing field” with state aid – calling it “a question of fairness” – as well as the issue of fishing,

But, she added: Overall, where there is a will there is a way, so I think we should intensify the negotiations because it is worth working hard on it.

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