Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel hold Brexit talks ahead of October deadline
11 October 2020, 20:58 | Updated: 11 October 2020, 23:46
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have held last-minute Brexit talks ahead of the looming October deadline.
The two leaders spoke via telephone on Sunday afternoon following a similar chat between the PM and French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.
It comes as the clock ticks towards the deadline for striking a post-Brexit trade deal, with just days to go for an agreement to be struck between London and Brussels.
Mr Johnson told the German leader a deal was the desirable outcome but warned that he was ready to leave the transition period at the end of the year on Australian-style terms with the EU if necessary.
Both the UK and the 27 European Union (EU) countries have agreed that a deal needs to be struck by the end of October to allow sufficient time for it to be ratified in law.
The British prime minister has previously said he wants a free trade deal agreed upon by the time of next week's EU summit in the Belgian capital on Thursday.
Referring to the UK leader, a Downing Street spokesperson said: "He outlined the current situation with respect to negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, emphasising the UK's desire to reach an agreement.
"The prime minister stressed that, while achieving a deal in the coming days would be beneficial for both sides, the UK was also prepared to end the transition period on Australia-style terms if a deal was not possible.
"The prime minister emphasised that progress must be made in the coming days to bridge the significant gaps, in particular in the areas of fisheries and the level playing field, through the process of intensive talks between chief negotiators."
Sunday's exchange came ahead of UK and EU negotiators resuming informal negotiations next week in Brussels, with time running out for agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal.
Lead negotiators Michel Barnier and Lord Frost met on Friday for face-to-face discussions in London.
The two leaders also discussed the coronavirus crisis in their bilateral discussions.