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Boris Johnson ready to settle for an Australia-style deal, as talks reach an impasse

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Here is the statement from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in full.

"From the outset we were totally clear that we wanted nothing more complicated than a Canada-style relationship based on friendship and free trade. To judge by the latest EU summit in Brussels, that won’t work for our EU partners. They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fisheries, in a way that is completely unacceptable to an independent country. And since we have only 10 weeks until the end of the transition period on 1 January, I have to make a judgement about the likely outcome and to get us all ready.

"And given that they have refused to negotiate seriously for much of the last few months and given that this summit appears explicitly to rule out a Canada-style deal, I’ve concluded that we should get ready for 1 January with arrangements that are more like Australia’s, based on simple principles of global free trade. And we can do it because we always knew that there would be change on 1 January whatever type of relationship we had. And so now is the time for our businesses to get ready and for our hauliers to get ready, for travellers to get ready.

"And, of course, we’re willing to discuss the practicalities with our friends where a lot of progress has already been made, by the way on such issues as social security and aviation, nuclear cooperation, and so on. But, for whatever reason, it’s clear from the summit that after 45 years of membership, they are not willing, unless there’s some fundamental change of approach, to offer this country, the same terms as Canada.

"And so with high hearts and with complete confidence, we will prepare to embrace the alternative and we will prosper mightily as an independent free trading nation controlling our own borders, our fisheries and setting our own laws. And in the meantime, the government will, of course, be focusing on tackling COVID and building that better so that 2021 is a year of recovery and renewal."

Brexit

Brexit decision entirely separate from US election outcome says PM Johnson

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Britain’s decision on whether to agree a Brexit deal with the European Union is entirely separate to the outcome of the US election next month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday (26 October), writes William James.

“The two things are entirely separate,” Johnson said, when asked about an Observer newspaper report that he was waiting to see the US result before making a Brexit decision, and whether he was concerned about the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency.

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'Time is very short' Britain says as EU's Barnier heads to London

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Britain said on Monday (26 October) that time was very short to bridge the significant remaining gaps on key issues in talks with the European Union, as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier heads to London to continue negotiations, write and

The United Kingdom left the European Union in January but the two sides are trying to clinch a deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual trade before a transition period of informal membership ends on 31 December.

After a brief hiatus when London walked away from the negotiating table, both sides are now meeting daily to try to find common ground.

At stake is the smooth flow of cross-border trade as well as the harder-to-quantify damage that a chaotic exit would do to areas such as security information sharing and research and development cooperation.

“There is much work to be done if we’re going to bridge what are the significant gaps that remain between our positions in the most difficult areas and time is very short,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

Barnier and his EU team will be in London until Wednesday, after which talks will switch to Brussels and continue through the weekend, an EU spokesperson said.

EU diplomats were not expected to be briefed on progress in the latest batch of talks until later in the week.

Johnson told reporters he was very glad to be talking with the EU again, but offered no new clues on the likelihood of a deal: “We’ll see where we go.”

Since talks restarted last week, British ministers have said real progress has been made and that there is a good chance of a deal. On Sunday, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said a deal to avoid tariffs and quotas was likely.

After some progress on competition guarantees including state aid rules, the hardest issue remains fishing - Johnson has insisted on taking back control over Britain’s waters while the EU wants access.

Although Britain insists it can prosper without a deal, British companies are facing a wall of bureaucracy that threatens chaos at the border if they want to sell into the world’s biggest trading bloc when life after Brexit begins on 1 January.

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A good chance we can get a deal with EU, says UK minister Lewis

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Britain and the European Union have a good chance of striking a deal on future relations, the British government’s Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis (pictured) said on Sunday (25 October), writes William James.

The United Kingdom left the EU in January but the two sides are trying to clinch a deal that would govern nearly a trillion dollars in annual trade before a transition period of informal membership ends on Dec. 31.

Talks resumed last week after Britain walked away in frustration at what it saw as the EU’s unwillingness to compromise on key issues. On Friday (23 October), Britain said there had been good progress since the restart.

Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper said the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier was planning to extend his stay in London until Wednesday (28 October).

Asked about that report, and the overall prospects of a deal, Lewis told the BBC: “I’m always an optimist...and I hope and I think there’s a good chance we can get a deal, but the EU need to understand it is for them to move as well.”

Lewis restated the government position that it would rather leave without a deal - a scenario it calls leaving on Australian terms - than accept a deal which is not in Britain’s interests.

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