Brexit breakthrough: Boris hopeful post-Brexit trade deal could be reached next month

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Earlier this week, a No 10 spokesman said UK negotiators “will continue to plug the gaps where any differences remain”. He added: “There are many issues that will be discussed during this week’s round, not least level playing field, fisheries, trading goods and services, amongst others.

“There are many areas where there is convergence but we will continue to work to plug the gaps where any differences remain.

“Our assessment is that a deal can still be reached in September.”

Speaking about the EU’s hope that a deal can be achieved, an EU Commission spokesman said: “The important thing to note – and I would point you first of all back to what Michel Barnier himself said in London at the end of the last round of negotiations – that, first of all, we want a deal, we want to have an ambitious and fair partnership with the UK, and that we must come to an agreement in October at the latest.”

He added: “This week and over the coming weeks we will remain constructive, we will remain engaged and respectful with the UK negotiating team in order to reach a deal.”

Both sides still differ on key points such as competition rules, fishing rights and how a deal would be imposed.

The UK has refused an extension for the December deadline to reach a deal.

However, after the last round of discussions in London last month, both parties agreed that they were not yet nearing a trade agreement.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said at the time that a deal looked “at this point unlikely”.

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Fishing rights and and competition rules are still key disagreement subjects to both sides.

Mr Barnier accused the UK of not showing a “willingness to break the deadlock” on either of these points.

He said there was a risk of no deal being reached, adding that these subjects were “at the heart” of the EU’s trade interests.

He added that both sides would need to reach an agreement by October “at the latest” so it could be signed before the post-Brexit transition period.

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Mr Barnier’s UK counterpart, David Frost, also said there were “considerable gaps” in these issues.

However, Mr Frost argued that a deal could still be reached.

Best for Britain chief executive Naomi Smith said: “The Government promised to deliver Brexit to ‘unleash the potential of our whole country’.

“But without a comprehensive trade deal with the EU, potentially irreparable damage will be done to our economy by the double impact of coronavirus and Brexit.

“The October deadline set by the EU means the clock is truly ticking on our Government to reach a deal that ensures jobs and businesses that survived the first wave of coronavirus aren’t lost at the turn of the year.”

In other trade talks, the UK and Japan could not reveal a trade deal as planned at the beginning of this month, while New Zealand has indicated British negotiators are not prepared for trade discussions.

David Henig, the UK director of the European Centre For International Political Economy, said: “The UK Government’s ambitions for new trade agreements this year always looked unachievable, but this doesn’t mean they will change their approach to EU talks and prioritise a deal.

“The EU doesn’t have a great record in understanding motivations in London. The politics of Brexit having always been more important than the economics.”

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