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Britain and the EU have resumed face-to-face talks over a post-Brexit trade deal for the first time since coronavirus lockdown measures were enforced throughout the continent. The two negotiating teams – led by David Frost and Michel Barnier – are meeting in Brussels this week in an attempt to break a stalemate in talks over the future relationship between the trading blocs. Boris Johnson has always insisted the UK will leave the EU at the end of the transition period on December 31, 2020.
The deadline for requesting an extension to that deadline with the EU expired on Tuesday, meaning Britain will depart the bloc over the coming months – with or without a deal in place.
The Prime Minister wants the broad outline of a deal agreed later this month, with all the loose ends tied up as soon as the autumn.
But several EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have warned talks between the two sides could stretch well into September – providing very little time to get an agreement completed.
Arch Raminers are increasingly panicking over the prospect of a no deal Brexit, with Anna Soubry warning the UK and EU are coming “perilously close” to that scenario.
The date for any extension has passed & we’re perilously close to the no deal #Brexit Leave leaders promised would never happen but which we now know they actually want
The former Government minister and leader of the failed Independent Group for Change has accused Brexiteers of “lying” to the country.
She tweeted: “The date for any extension has passed & we’re perilously close to the no deal #Brexit Leave leaders promised would never happen but which we now know they actually want.
“#Covid19 will be a convenient mask for impending economic disaster of #NoDeal.
“They just keep on lying to us.”
Ms Soubry was reacting to the news more than 100 UK company bosses, entrepreneurs and business groups have written to the Prime Minister to warn his of the “hugely damaging” impact a no deal Brexit would have on the country’s economy.
The letter, signed by bosses and founders of companies such as Ebookers, Zoopla and Argus Media, warns such a scenario would result “in more people out of work and lower living standards”.
It added businesses “simply do not have time or capacity to prepare for big changes in trading rules by the end of the year — especially given that we are already grappling with the upheaval caused by coronavirus”.
The letter is one of the first cross-industry efforts since the coronavirus outbreak in the UK to exert pressure on the Brexit negotiators to strike a business-friendly trade deal with the EU.
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This also shows businesses are becoming increasingly concerned over a lack of progress in EU trade talks – something both the UK and EU have bemoaned over recent weeks of virtual meetings.
Mr Johnson has given the EU three months to confirm a trade deal, with Downing Street warning talks can’t stretch into the autumn.
The Prime Minister reportedly does not want talks to continue past September because it will leave businesses with little time to get ready for the end of the transition period in December.
This comes as Downing Street confirmed that the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator will take on his new position as Mr Johnson’s national security adviser at the end of August.
Although his role as negotiator will not be replaced, Mr Frost has insisted Brexit talks will remain his top priority “until those negotiations have concluded”.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister indicated the position could overlap but said this would be a short period of time.
But the spokesman warned: “Talks can’t go into the autumn.”
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