British PM Johnson upbeat on EU trade pact before key talks

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that “there’s a good deal to be done” with the European Union on post-Brexit trade, as he prepared for scheduled talks with European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Mr. Johnson told reporters that the U.K. wants a free trade deal along the lines of the one the EU has with Canada, but is also prepared for negotiations to fail.

“We’re resolved on either course, we’re prepared for either course and we’ll make it work, but it’s very much up to our friends and partners,” Mr. Johnson said.

The two parties are trying to strike a rudimentary trade deal before the Brexit transition period ends on December 31, to avoid a barrage of uncertainty, tariffs and red tape that would hurt economies on both sides.

Deadlock remains

But while negotiators have inched close to agreement in many areas during six months of talks, they remain deadlocked over European fishing boats’ access to U.K. waters, and over the level of support governments can give to industry. The EU is concerned that British plans to subsidise sectors such as technology will amount to unfair competition.

“We should not forget that we have made progress on many, many different fields. But, of course, the most difficult ones are still completely open,” Ms. von der Leyen said on Friday.

“We want a deal because we think it is better to have a deal as neighbours – also, on top of these COVID times with devastating impact on the economies,” she said. “But not at any price.”

Mr. Johnson said an October 15-16 EU summit is effectively the deadline for a deal if it is to be ratified by year’s end, though EU officials think talks may drag on beyond then.

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