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UK, EU to resume trade talks later this week in London

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-10-22 09:18

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns to Downing Street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain, Oct 21, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - Britain announced on Wednesday that it will resume talks on future relationship with the European Union (EU) later this week in London, a few days after Downing Street said the post-Brexit negotiations were over.

"We are ready to welcome the EU team to London to resume negotiations later this week. We have jointly agreed a set of principles for handling this intensified phase of talks," Downing Street said in a statement.

It said the initial phase of the negotiations will take place in London from Oct 22 until Oct 25.

"It is clear that significant gaps remain between our positions in the most difficult areas, but we are ready, with the EU, to see if it is possible to bridge them in intensive talks," Downing Street said.

Meanwhile, a Downing Street spokesperson said the development has been sparked by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's statement in the European Parliament on Wednesday that both sides must be willing to compromise.

Barnier told the European Parliament that a deal was "within reach".

However, Downing Street warned that the no-trade deal scenario still could not be ruled out.

"As both sides have made clear, it takes two to reach an agreement. It is entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed," it said. "If so, the UK will end the transition period on Australia terms and will prosper in doing so."

The Australia-style arrangement is an euphemism for failure to reach a free trade agreement, which means the Britain-EU trade will fall back on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules in 2021.

Britain urged businesses, hauliers and travellers to prepare actively for the end of the transition period, whether an agreement is reached or not.

Britain and the EU started their lengthy and bumpy post-Brexit talks in March after Britain ended its EU membership on Jan. 31, trying to secure a future trade deal before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.

The post-Brexit trade talks stalled last week, with Downing Street insisting there was no point in resuming discussions unless there was a change in stance from the regional bloc.

There are big gaps between the two sides on such fields as the fisheries, state aid.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, were engaged in a video meeting in early October trying to unblock the trade talks at a time when countries, such as Britain, China, Russia and the United States, are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.

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