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British PM claims new sense of optimism in talks

British prime minister (PM), Theresa May,was yesterday expected to tell MPs there is a new “sense of optimism” in the Brexit talks after her last-minute deal aimed at moving them to the next phase.

The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019 but wants a two-year transition period after that date, with continued access to the single market to allow businesses to adjust.

That is expected to be the focus of the next round of talks in Brussels in the new year, before discussions can start on a free trade agreement.

The EU would not agree to move forward with talks until the UK agreed on a figure for its divorce bill.

The Treasury indicated on Friday that it would be between £35billion and £39billion, paid over four years.

The sticking point on the Irish border was also addressed, with both sides vowing to prevent the return of a “hard border”.

But a clause inserted at the insistence of the Irish government says the UK would have full “regulatory alignment” with the EU in some areas if it leaves the EU without a deal.

Some have interpreted this as a victory for a “soft” Brexit, that would see the UK continue to be closely aligned with the EU single market and customs union but unable to strike its own trade deals.

Brexit secretary, David Davis, said the chances of the UK exiting without a deal had “dropped dramatically” following Friday’s statement.

But he said if the UK did leave without a deal, the agreement on the border was not “legally enforceable” – and Britain would not pay any money to the EU.

He stressed that the UK was committed to a “frictionless and invisible” Irish border – and it would “find a way” to keep that in the event of a “no deal” Brexit.

He said he wanted an “overarching” free trade deal without tariff barriers, which he described as “Canada plus plusplus” –a reference to the free trade deal struck between Canada and the EU.

But, unlike the Canada deal, he wants financial services to be included in the tariff-free area, he told the BBC.

Few Conservative Brexiteers have openly criticised the pm’s deal, although the former Brexit minister David Jones suggested it needed to be “refined” and that the divorce bill could be far higher than £39billion.—BBC

 

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