UK says progress made on Brexit; EU trade deal can be done

Michael Gove said progress had been made with the European Union and believed the two sides would clinch a free trade agreement. — Reuters pic
Michael Gove said progress had been made with the European Union and believed the two sides would clinch a free trade agreement. — Reuters pic

LONDON, Aug 7 — Britain’s top minister overseeing Brexit talks said today that progress had been made with the European Union so he believed the two sides would clinch a free trade agreement.

The United Kingdom left the EU on January 31 but the main terms of its membership remain in place during a transition period until the end of this year, during which time both sides hope to negotiate a new free trade deal.

“All the evidence is that we are making progress with the European Union,” Michael Gove told reporters in Northern Ireland. “I believe that there will be a successful negotiated outcome.”

While Britain has always said it believed a deal was possible, the tone of the comments from Gove — one of the most senior Brexit supporters in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government — was distinctly more positive than in recent months.

In late May, for example, Gove was demanding that the EU break the impasse in talks.

Failure to reach a deal would convulse global trade just as the world aims to exit the coronavirus lockdown.

The European Union is willing to compromise by softening its demand that Britain heed EU rules on state aid in the future, diplomatic sources told Reuters earlier this month.

They said Brussels could go for a compromise entailing a dispute-settling mechanism on any state aid granted by the UK to its companies in the future, rather than obliging London to follow the bloc’s own rules from the outset.

“The relationship that we have with the European Union is constructive, pragmatic and impressive,” Gove said, adding that he thought a deal could be done though there was more work to do.

Britain and the EU have planned more trade negotiations all the way until October 2, less than a fortnight before a summit where the bloc hopes to endorse any agreement with London. — Reuters

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