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26 Nov, 2020 17:24

UK wants to resume face-to-face Brexit talks, but ‘decision is for Brussels’ – spokesman

UK wants to resume face-to-face Brexit talks, but ‘decision is for Brussels’ – spokesman

The UK is ready to resume face-to-face trade negotiations with the EU, PM Boris Johnson’s spokesman said on Thursday. Meanwhile, the EU’s chief negotiator reportedly demanded a shift in position by London for talks to continue.

“We want to resume face-to-face negotiations,” Johnson’s spokesman told reporters, adding that “it’s for the EU to decide when and if they come.” The talks are continuing in a virtual mode after a member of the Brussels team tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month, the spokesman noted.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, confirmed on Monday that the Brexit talks are continuing after technical discussions were held at the weekend. 

“Time is short,” Barnier tweeted. “Fundamental divergences still remain, but we are continuing to work hard for a deal.”

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However, Barnier reportedly warned his British counterpart David Frost on Tuesday that he would pull out of the negotiations in London this weekend if there’s no major negotiating shift by Downing Street within the next 48 hours, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

Barnier was quoted as saying that further talks would be pointless if the UK was not willing to compromise on the outstanding issues.

These final issues in talks on a trade deal are very difficult, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney confirmed on Thursday.

“The outstanding issues around fair competition and fisheries, and indeed governance in relation to the level-playing-field issue, are proving very, very difficult issues to make progress on, if the truth be told,” he explained.

The incentive to secure a deal before the end-of-year deadline was also “very, very strong,” the Irish minister said, as moving ahead without a deal could be enormously disruptive.

British businesses are already rushing to stockpile goods five weeks before post-Brexit customs checks come into force next year, according to industry sources.

And queues of lorries stretching for five miles in Kent, England showed on Tuesday how the worst-case scenario could look. The long lines of lorries as they queued to cross the English channel formed after customs officials on the French side started a trial of post-Brexit checks to rehearse new immigration procedures.

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