UK-EU trade deal some way off, both sides say

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The UK and EU have said they still remain some way off reaching a post-Brexit trade agreement, following the latest negotiations in London.

UK chief negotiator David Frost said there were “considerable gaps” in the most difficult areas, but a deal could still be reached in September.

His EU counterpart Michel Barnier said both sides were still “far away” and time was running out for negotiations.

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

This was the second official negotiation round to be held in person since the coronavirus crisis, after both sides agreed to “intensify” talks in June.

The two sides’ chief negotiators are due to meet informally in London next week, with another round of official talks scheduled for mid-August in Brussels.

Speaking after the talks, Mr Barnier said a deal was “at this point unlikely” unless the UK changed its stance over fisheries and post-Brexit rules on competition.

He said the UK had not shown a “willingness to break the deadlock” in these areas, and the “time for answers is quickly running out”.

He added that an agreement would be needed by October “at the latest” so it could be ratified before the current post-Brexit transition period ends in December.

‘Pragmatic approach’

In a statement, Mr Frost said fisheries and the rules on competition – known as “level playing field” provisions – remained the “most difficult areas”.

And he also said that the government must “face the possibility” that a deal may not happen

But he added the EU had shown a “pragmatic approach” over British demands to limit the role of the European Court of Justice after transition period ends.

He said the UK, which has so far insisted on a series of separate deals in different areas, was also willing to consider a “simpler” structure for an agreement.