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UK and EU Get Back Down to Business

UK and the EU are set to start intensified negotiations on Thursday. With time fast running out, they’re making a new, final push to try to secure a deal.

The deal is to protect billions of dollars of post-Brexit trade between the neighbours.

The two sides reached an agreement to restart talks only 10 weeks before a status-quo transition arrangement expires. Late last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson walked away from the negotiations.

They will sit down daily including the weekend until Oct. 25. Then they’ll set the intensified agenda for the coming weeks in both Brussels and London. 

The EU is ready to negotiate by mid-November. But it needs time to be able to ratify any deal before the year-end deadline.

A spokesman for Johnson said time is now very short. They’ve been clear that any agreement needs to be in place before the end of the transition period.  If an agreement can’t be reached, they will leave on Australian-style terms, he said.

Both of them have agreed to a genuine intensification of the negotiations. That’s with talks taking place daily, including weekends, and both sides do recognise that time is extremely short, Johnson added.

With or Without a Trade Deal

The talks have all but stalled since summer. Neither side compromised on the thorniest issues of fair competition guarantees. 

These include state aid rules and fisheries, a sector laden with symbolism for Brexit supporters in Britain.

There has been some movement around the edges. Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator, said he wasn’t concerned about anything else but fish. This was during a briefing with diplomats in Brussels late on Wednesday. 

The diplomat said Fish is now the thing to tackle. The other elements seem doable, more or less.

EU officials have become more frustrated with British tactics. This was after Johnson walked away from talks last week.  In their mind, tactics simply use up valuable time in unnecessary theatrics.  

But the UK side argued that they must stick up for their position. Moreover, they must honour Johnson’s pledge to take back control. 

Some in his team saw a small win in the EU talking up British sovereignty. This is in order to get the talks back on track.

Businesses are told to get ready for the end of the transition period. Whether a deal has been made or not, British ministers will launch an advertising campaign encouraging companies to prepare now.

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