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UPDATE 2-Brexit brinkmanship: UK, EU tell each other to move on trade

Mon, 19th Oct 2020 08:27

* Negotiators to speak by phone after in-person meeting
scrapped

* British PM Johnson has said there is no point continuing
talks

* EU diplomats still expect UK to come back to table

* UK could quit huge EU single market on Dec.31 with no
trade deal
(Adds Sefcovic comments)

By Paul Sandle and Jan Strupczewski

LONDON/BRUSSELS, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Britain and the European
Union said on Monday the door was still open to a deal, calling
on each other to compromise to find a way to protect billions of
dollars of trade between the neighbours.

With just over two months before Britain ends a status quo
transition arrangement with the EU, both sides are deadlocked
over a way forward to try to secure a trade deal with neither
wanting to move first to offer concessions.

A no-deal finale to the United Kingdom's five-year Brexit
crisis would disrupt the operations of manufacturers, retailers,
farmers and nearly every other sector - just as the economic hit
from the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic repeated
on Monday that the EU still wanted a trade deal with Britain but
not "at any cost" after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
said on Friday there was no point in continuing talks.

"It has to be a fair agreement for both sides - we are not
going to sign an agreement at any cost," Sefcovic told reporters
after meeting Michael Gove, Britain's point man on the existing
divorce agreement, in London.

"The European Union is ready to work until the last minute
for a good agreement for both parties," Sefcovic said.

Earlier, British Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick called on
the EU to "go that extra mile, to come closer to us on the
points that remain for discussion".

"We hope that they could come forward now with some
relatively small but important changes which respect us as an
independent sovereign nation," he told Sky News.

TALKS ON OR OFF?

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had been due in London
for talks with British counterpart David Frost this week.
Instead, they will now speak by telephone on Monday to discuss
the structure of future talks, Barnier's spokesman said.

Negotiations broke down on Thursday when the European Union
demanded Britain give ground. Issues still to be resolved
include fair competition rules, dispute resolution and
fisheries.

EU diplomats and officials cast Johnson's move as a frantic
bid to secure concessions before a last-minute deal was done,
and European leaders have asked Barnier to continue talks.

UK officials have repeatedly said any deal has to honour
Britain's new status as a sovereign country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said compromises on both
sides would be needed. French President Emmanuel Macron said
Britain needed a Brexit deal more than the 27-nation EU.

"We are ready for a deal, but not at any price," he said.

Britain is launching a campaign this week urging businesses
to step up preparations for that. In a statement accompanying
the launch, Gove says: "Make no mistake, there are changes
coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to
act."

More than 70 British business groups representing over 7
million workers on Sunday urged politicians to get back to the
negotiating table next week and strike a deal.

"With compromise and tenacity, a deal can be done.
Businesses call on leaders on both sides to find a route
through," they said.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Jan Strupczewski;
Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle;
Editing by Kevin Liffey, Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean)

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