Shropshire Star

Brexit negotiators to talk after Gove leaves door ‘ajar’ for trade discussions

The Government has launched a ‘time is running out’ campaign urging businesses to get ready for the end of the transition period on December 31.

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Brexit negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier are expected to speak on Monday after Michael Gove said the door was “ajar” for trade talks to resume.

The Cabinet Office minister said negotiations could go ahead if the EU changes its approach, despite Downing Street previously declaring discussions as “over”.

EU negotiator Mr Barnier was expecting to be called by his Downing Street counterpart on Monday afternoon, though No 10 was no more specific than saying the discussion would come early in the week.

Face-to-face talks will take place in London between Mr Gove and his opposite number on the UK-EU joint committee, Maros Sefcovic, in the morning.

Meanwhile, the Government launched a “time is running out” campaign urging businesses to get ready for the end of the transition period on December 31, regardless of whether a trade deal is in place.

Businesses, increasingly concerned about the high tariffs of a no-deal exit, called on both sides to find a compromise for a deal.

Confederation of British Industry deputy director general Josh Hardie warned of a “hat-trick of unprecedented challenges” from the first wave of coronavirus, its resurgence and “uncertainty over the UK’s trading relationship with the EU”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week accused European leaders of having “abandoned the idea of a free trade deal” and told the country to “get ready” for leaving without a trade deal.

UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost (Aaron Chown/PA)

And Lord Frost told Mr Barnier not to travel for planned talks, with the UK calling for a fundamental change in direction of the bloc’s approach.

But they are expected to discuss the structure of future talks over videoconferencing.

Mr Gove said on Sunday “we are ready if required” to leave without a trade deal, but left room for talks to restart during an appearance on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

Asked if the door is still open to talks, he said: “It is ajar; we hope the EU will change their position, we’re certainly not saying that if they do change their position we can’t talk to them.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s five Anglican archbishops intervened to criticise the Government’s controversial new Brexit legislation as setting a “disastrous precedent” in a letter to the Financial Times ahead of a Lords debate.

Led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, they said the UK Internal Market Bill has “enormous moral, as well as political and legal, consequences” by paving the way for a breach of international law by overriding parts of the Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels.

It comes as Britain’s pharmaceutical industry called on Mr Johnson to strike a side-deal with Brussels to avoid shortages of medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) told The Independent the absence of a sector-specific agreement would lead to delays of up to six weeks in supplies.

ABPI chief executive Richard Torbett told the paper such an agreement was “a very bare minimum that we need for medicines desperately”.

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