The UK and EU have agreed to carry on post-Brexit trade talks after a call between leaders earlier on Sunday.
In a joint statement, Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said it was “responsible at this point to go the extra mile”.
The pair discussed “major unresolved topics” during their call.
The two sides had said Sunday was the deadline for a decision on whether to continue with talks, with the UK set to leave EU rules at the end of the month.
The leaders agreed to tell negotiators to carry on talks in Brussels “to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached”.
They did not say how long these latest talks would continue, but the ultimate deadline is 31 December, and time must be allowed for the UK and European Parliaments to vote on any deal that emerges before then.
Mrs von der Leyen said Sunday’s call with Mr Johnson had been “constructive and useful”.
But Mr Johnson repeated his warning from earlier in the week that a no deal scenario was “most likely”.
The UK and EU have been carrying out negotiations for a post-Brexit trade deal since March and are attempting to secure one before the so-called transition period end on 31 December – when the two sides would move to trading on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
Without a trade deal, tariffs – charges on goods being bought and sold between the two sides – could be introduced and, in turn, prices on certain products may go up.
Reading out the joint statement, Mrs von der Leyen said: “Despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over, we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.”
Mr Johnson later said “where there is life, there is hope”, and that the UK “certainly won’t be walking away from the talks”.
But he added: “I’ve got to repeat the most likely thing now is of course that we have to get ready for WTO terms.
“As far as I can see, there are some serious and very difficult issues that currently separate the UK from EU and the best thing to do now for everybody… [is to] get ready to trade on WTO terms.”
Labour’s Rachel Reeves welcomed the continuation of the talks and said the worst outcome would be to “crash out with no deal whatsoever on 1 January”.
She added: “I hope that they [the talks] will swiftly conclude, but I also hope on behalf of all British businesses and workers, and our security as well, that the government deliver the promise they made to the British people and come back with a deal.”
- Brexit happened but rules didn’t change at once: The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020, but leaders needed time to negotiate a deal for life afterwards – they got 11 months.
- Talks are happening: The UK and the EU have until 31 December 2020 to agree a trade deal as well as other things, such as fishing rights.
- If there is no deal: Border checks and taxes will be introduced for goods travelling between the UK and the EU. But deal or no deal, we will still see changes.
Talks will now continue in Brussels, with a focus expected on how close the UK should stick to EU economic rules in the future.
The EU is determined to prevent the UK from gaining what it sees as an unfair advantage of having tariff-free access to its markets – not paying taxes on goods being bought and sold – while setting its own standards on products, employment rights and business subsidies.
The EU is reported to have dropped the idea of a formal mechanism to ensure both sides keep up with each other’s standards and is now prepared to accept UK divergence – provided there are safeguards to prevent unfair competition.
Fishing rights is another major area of disagreement, with the EU warning that without access to UK waters for EU fleets, UK fishermen will no longer get special access to EU markets to sell their goods.
But the UK argues that what goes on in its own waters, and its wider business rules, should be under its control as a sovereign country.
Business lobby group the CBI said the continuation of talks “gives us hope”, and that a deal was “both essential and possible” for the UK economy.
When is a deadline not a deadline? When it’s anything to do with Brexit, perhaps.
Both sides in this long, long process, have agreed to go on rather than pull the plug.
The circle around the talks is extremely tight so it is very hard to know precisely what is going on. It is possible that both sides are dangling concessions.
But there is the sense now that the ground has shifted enough to make the chance of a deal worth pursuing.
The political imperatives to make this happen are so strong that even tricky issues at this late stage can still potentially be fudged.
It’s far from certain that the talks will end in agreement, but the chances of resolution are once again on the rise.
The National Farmers’ Union has warned there will be “significant disruption” to the sector if the UK fails to reach a trade deal with the EU.
And the British Retail Consortium warned the public would face “over £3bn in food tariffs [meaning] retailers would have no choice but to pass on some of these additional costs to their customers”.
Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin said he believed a no-deal scenario “would be very bad news for all of us” and “an appalling failure of statecraft” on both sides.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, he called for the teams “with any bit of energy we have left [to] focus on negotiating a deal”.
A number of Conservative MPs welcomed the continuation of talks, with former minister Damian Green, who backed Remain in the 2016 EU referendum, saying it was “good news” and that “no deal would be terrible”.
But leading Tory Brexiteer Sir John Redwood tweeted: “A long complex legal agreement that locks the UK back into many features of the EU that hinder us is not the Christmas present the UK needs.”
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-55292890
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Dozens killed in suspected jihadist attack in Niger
Dozens of people were killed in an attack in Niger on Saturday, in a suspected jihadist attack.
The attack took place around 12:00 CET in the Tchomo-Bangou village in Tillabéri, a western region bordering Mali.
“The assailants surrounded the village and killed up to 50 people,” a local radio journalist said anonymously. “The wounded have been evacuated to the hospital in Ouallam.”
It came on the day provisional results for the first round of the presidential election, held on December 27, were released.
Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate for the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) and a former interior minister, is in the lead with 39.3 per cent of the votes. Bazoum has vowed to strengthen the country’s fight against Islamist groups.
The second round of the election is to be held on February 21.
Niger has been a target for jihadist attacks for years, particularly in the western and southeastern parts of the country.
On December 21, six days before the presidential poll, seven soldiers were killed in Tillabéri. In May 2020, twenty people, including children, were also killed in two of the region’s villages.
Niger votes in presidential and legislative elections
People in Niger began voting in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Mohamed Bazoum, the right-hand man of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is the favourite to win.
The sixty-year-old former interior minister is aiming for outright victory in the first round — something that no candidate has done before.
He’s focussing on security and education.
Over 7 million people are eligible to vote. But some voters, like Gambina Moumouni, simply want a president they can trust.
“We pray to Allah to choose us the president who has the most mercy for the people, a president who will not betray the country and who will not betray the trust of the people, that is our wish. It is also our wish that Allah may help to make the poor, the peasants, the (cattle) breeders happy.
Thirty candidates are standing including two former presidents and two former prime ministers, but according to seasoned observers in the region, the poll is arousing little enthusiasm among the population.
Niger is the world’s poorest according to the UN’s Human Development Index and also one of those hardest hit by climate change.
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