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Speaking today, Lord Frost admitted there is still significant work to be done if the two sides are to agree a deadline in time for the EU summit on October 15. Although the UK’s chief negotiator insisted he was working hard for a deal, he also claimed an agreement is still far away. Despite the current deadlock over talks, Lord Frost insisted the UK would be ready to agree a deal if there is one ready by the end of the year.
Lord Frost told a Parliamentary Committee today: “I feel we’re some way from a deal at the moment, if I’m honest, but we are at least having a decent discussion of this, you know, what is possible and what isn’t possible.
“As we approach the 15th – and it is very close already – I will have to advise the Prime Minister on whether the conditions in his statement have been met or not.
“My job is just to work as hard as we can over the next two weeks to see if we can get an agreement in place by October 15.
“Both sides in the negotiations need to take that date fully into account when they’re planning the next two weeks.”
Lord Frost also claimed it will be difficult to agree the level of detail Brussels wants.
He also indicated there must be openness over state aid subsidies.
The UK’s chief negotiator also insisted Brussels was being overambitious on its desire for how a free trade agreement could work post-Brexit.
He added: “In many areas the landing zone and the nature of the agreements is pretty clear, if not exactly pinned down yet.
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“What needs to happen between now and then is that we need to make progress, primarily in the areas where there are big gaps.”
Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove, also admitted today, the UK is stepping up its no deal planning.
Although the Government wants a deal to be agreed, Mr Gove insisted the UK would not be held hostage over negotiations.
He said: “Negotiations are proceeding in a way which gives us cause for steady optimism.
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“No one would be happier than me if we could conclude an agreement, but we have an absolute obligation to ensure that the country is ready in the event that we don’t.”
State aid has remained one of the key areas of divergence between the two sides.
Brussels wants the UK to follow a similar state aid structure used on the continent.
This would stop the UK from giving companies more attractive support pay-outs, thus enticing them to settle in Britain as opposed to the EU.
EU officials arrived in London today for further talks which are set to run until Friday.
Further negotiations will be held next week ahead of the EU summit.
While British officials want a deal by October 15, Brussels has left the end of the month open for an agreement to be signed.
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