UK committed to agreeing outlines of trade deal with EU: Spokesman for PM Boris Johnson

A March 2020 photo shows the British Prime Minister's Europe adviser David Frost (left) with EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain remains committed to agreeing the outlines of a balanced trade agreement with the European Union (EU), but significant differences between the two sides remain, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday (July 22).

Talks on a so-called future relationship, which are now in their fifth round, have all but stalled, raising fears among some companies that there will be disruption at the end of the year if the two fail to secure a trade deal.

"We remain committed to working hard to find the outlines of a balanced agreement," the spokesman told reporters.

"We have been clear that discussions throughout this intensified process have continued to be constructive, but significant differences still remain on a number of important issues.

"Our preference is to leave with an FTA (free trade agreement) as long as it guarantees our political and economic independence... We will make sure that we're prepared for all possible scenarios."

On Tuesday, the Telegraph reported that Britain and the EU will fail to sign a post-Brexit trade deal, with only a few days left before Mr Johnson's July deadline.

The British government's assumption is that there will not be a deal, though it remains possible that a "basic" agreement could be reached if the EU gives ground in the autumn, the newspaper said, citing government sources.

The government expects it will trade with Europe on World Trade Organisation terms when the transition period ends, the report added.

Britain left the EU on Jan 31 and its relationship with the bloc is now governed by a transition arrangement that keeps previous rules in place while the two sides negotiate new terms.

Negotiators remain deadlocked on fishing rights, the deal's governance, the European Court of Justice's role and so-called level playing field guarantees, the newspaper reported.

Britain is pursuing trade deals with other countries and setting up its own sanctions regime, and has previously insisted it should not have to sign up to the bloc's standards.

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