Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

Brexit

Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron discuss Brexit before crunch talks resume

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) gestures past French President Emmanuel Macron at the Biarritz lighthouse, southwestern France, ahead of a working dinner on the first day of the annual G7 Summit. AFP
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) gestures past French President Emmanuel Macron at the Biarritz lighthouse, southwestern France, ahead of a working dinner on the first day of the annual G7 Summit. AFP

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday that Britain remains committed to seeking a trade deal with the European Union but not at any cost.

The two spoke by telephone on Saturday, days ahead of Johnson’s self-imposed deadline for reaching an accord over the UK’s future relationship with the EU, according to an emailed statement from Downing Street.

Mr Johnson emphasised the need for a breakthrough in areas including fishing rights and state aid, confirming the U.K. wants a deal but that it’s prepared to walk away if a compromise can’t be reached, the statement said.

Britain and the EU are still at loggerheads on state subsidies for businesses as well as fishing -- with Macron pushing hard to keep the same access to British waters his country’s fleet enjoys currently.

The call is a sign that Johnson is getting personally involved in the Brexit negotiations. Last weekend, he spoke with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, after which both sides agreed to intensify their efforts to secure a deal. EU officials see the prime minister’s engagement and any conversations with EU leaders as a sign of progress in the discussions.

Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost will resume talks in Brussels on Monday, before EU leaders meet later in the week. The UK government has said it wants to see that a deal is possible by the time of that summit or it will walk away from the discussions. Officials in Brussels expect the British to remain at the negotiating table and for the talks to continue through the end of the month at least.

If the two sides fail to reach an accord, millions of consumers and businesses will face additional costs and disruption as quotas and tariffs are re-imposed for the first time in a generation. Such an outcome could also sour relations between the EU and its closest ally in foreign and security policy and have knock-on effects in areas ranging from aviation to finance and scientific research.

Updated: October 10, 2020 08:01 PM

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