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UK sees 'landing zone' for Brexit trade deal but tells EU to hurry up

Wed, 7th Oct 2020 17:06

* UK sees a landing zone for deal - Frost

* Nature of a deal is clear - Frost

* Oct 15 deadline is real - Frost

* Gove: We will not do a deal at any price

* French EU lawmaker takes tough line on fish

By Guy Faulconbridge, Kate Holton and William James

LONDON, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Britain's chief Brexit negotiator
said on Wednesday he saw a landing zone for a trade deal with
the European Union but sought to use Prime Minister Boris
Johnson's deadline of Oct. 15 to hurry the bloc's negotiators
towards an agreement.

The two sides say they are inching towards a deal that would
govern around $900 billion in trade after the United Kingdom
leaves informal membership on Dec. 31, though sticking points
remain on fishing, level playing field issues and governance.

"The landing zone and the nature of the agreement is pretty
clear if not exactly pinned down yet," chief Brexit negotiator
David Frost told a House of Lords Committee.

But Frost cautioned the EU that an Oct. 15 deadline set by
Johnson on Sept. 7 remained a deadline. The EU is due to asses
progress on a deal at an Oct. 15-16 summit.

Frost added that Britain's "door would never be closed" and
that a huge amount of textual work would need to follow Oct. 15
if an outline deal was struck.

"As we approach the 15th -- and it is very close already --
I will have to advise the prime minister on whether the
conditions in his statement have been met or not and we will
have to consider the situation at that point," Frost said.

Sterling fell on a Bloomberg report that Britain would pull
out of talks next week unless there was clear landing zone for a
deal. Sources told Reuters the EU is gearing up to keep
negotiating until as late as mid-November.

The United Kingdom left the EU on Jan. 31, more than three
years after it voted 52-48 for Brexit in a 2016 referendum. The
two sides are now trying to work out how everything from cars to
Camembert to whisky will trade.

Johnson said on Wednesday that Britain would take back "full
control of our money, our borders and our laws" on Jan. 1.

He has repeatedly said he would prefer a Canada-style free
trade deal but is ready to accept no-deal -- which would mean
tariffs would be imposed on goods under World Trade Organization
(WTO) rules.

"NOT AT ANY PRICE"

Johnson's Brexit supremo, Michael Gove, said no-deal
preparations were intensifying so that if the EU was
intransigent and no good deal was available, the United Kingdom
would not be held hostage by the EU.

"Those preparations are intensifying as we speak," Gove
said. "While we are obviously keen to get a deal we will not do
a deal at any price."

"If it is the case that the EU insists on an intransigent
approach in the weeks ahead, then very well -- we will be ready
for that eventuality. It is emphatically not our preference."

The EU replied to Gove within hours.

"The EU prefers a deal, but not at any cost," said European
Council President Charles Michel. "Time for the UK to put its
cards on the table."

While many investment banks say their base case is that a
deal will be done, some diplomats fear Johnson could ultimately
decide that a no-deal is more attractive in domestic political
terms than such a thin trade deal.

Emotive issues remain unresolved, such as fishing.

A French EU lawmaker who chairs the European Parliament's
fisheries committee told Reuters there could be no annual quota
negotiation in a trade deal with Britain, sticking to a tough
line from Paris that could make a Brexit deal more difficult.

($1 = 0.7773 pounds)
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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