UK says ready to restart Brexit talks Thursday

By: AFP      Published: 09:38 PM, 21 Oct, 2020
UK says ready to restart Brexit talks Thursday

The UK government said on Wednesday that negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union would restart on Thursday, days after threatening to walk away.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had called off the long-running talks on a free trade agreement, demanding a "fundamental change in approach" from Brussels.

He claimed the EU was unwilling to accept Britain's new independent status after it left the bloc in January, which had led to months of deadlock on key issues such as common standards and fishing rights.

But in a statement, Johnson's Downing Street office said EU negotiator Michel Barnier had "acknowledged" London's concerns in remarks to the European Parliament earlier Wednesday.

After a subsequent conversation between Barnier and his UK counterpart David Frost, Downing Street said: "We are ready to welcome the EU team to London to resume negotiations later this week."

"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," the statement added.  

Downing Street said it still wanted a deal for when a post-Brexit transition period ends on December 31, but held out the possibility that it would again walk away from the talks.

"As both sides have made clear, it takes two to reach an agreement," it added.

The statement said both Frost and Barnier had agreed to an initial phase of negotiations in London from October 22 to October 25.

It would be on the basis of legal texts -- a key demand of the UK -- "across all negotiating tables concurrently".