EU warns Brexit trade agreement must be struck by October ‘at the latest’ to avoid a no-deal scenario

PUBLISHED: 14:42 18 August 2020 | UPDATED: 14:42 18 August 2020

Michel Barnier at a press conference on Brexit; Twitter

Michel Barnier at a press conference on Brexit; Twitter

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The EU has warned that a post-Brexit trade agreement must be struck by October “at the latest” if both sides want to avoid a no-deal scenario.

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A spokesman for the EU Commission said the EU still wanted an “ambitious and fair partnership with the UK”, but a deal must be achieved by the end of October for it to be ratified in time.

On Monday, a No 10 spokesman said the government wass still confident a deal could be reached in September, despite already missing a self-imposed deadline in July.

The comments come ahead of the latest round of Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU, which are due to begin on Tuesday evening and continue until Friday.

Giving an update on the state of talks, 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.”

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Downing Street said UK negotiators “will continue to plug the gaps where any differences remain”.

A spokesperson for No 10 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.”

The trade talks resume amid fears of a deadlock, with both sides admitting after the last round of negotiations in London last month that they remained some way off a trade agreement.

After those talks, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said a deal looked “at this point unlikely” given the UK position on fishing rights and competition rules.

Barnier said the UK had not shown a “willingness to break the deadlock” on these issues and that there was a real risk of no-deal happening unless the UK changed tack on topics which were “at the heart” of the EU’s trade interests.

His UK counterpart, David Frost, agreed that “considerable gaps” remained in these areas, but argued that a deal was still possible.

The UK has ruled out extending the December deadline to reach a deal.

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