Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron hold Brexit talks ahead of October deadline

10 October 2020, 16:56

Emmanuel Macron (R) visited the UK and Boris Johnson (L) in June this year
Emmanuel Macron (R) visited the UK and Boris Johnson (L) in June this year. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron have held last-minute Brexit talks as the October deadline looms.

The two leaders spoke via telephone on Saturday afternoon as the clock ticks towards the deadline for striking a Brexit deal.

Mr Johnson told his French counterpart he would "explore every avenue" to secure a future trade settlement but that he was prepared to walk away from the transition period at the end of the year on Australian-style terms with Brussels 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.

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A Number 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister... set out the latest state of play in the negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

"He confirmed the UK's commitment to exploring every avenue to reach an agreement.

"He underlined that a deal was better for both sides, but also that the UK was prepared to end the transition period on Australia-style terms if an agreement could not be found.

"The prime minister emphasised that progress must be made in the coming days to bridge the significant gaps, notably in the areas of fisheries and the level playing field, through the process of intensive talks between chief negotiators agreed with the president of the European Commission.

"The leaders agreed to keep in touch on the issue."

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Saturday'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.