‘We are ready’ Rishi Sunak says UK prepared to leave EU with or without trade deal

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Speaking to Sky News, the Chancellor said that he was confident and hopeful that a Brexit trade deal could be struck with the European Union and that the shape of the deal was clear. “There is a lot of work going on, and I think with a constructive attitude and goodwill on all sides we can get there,” Rishi Sunak said. “It’s clear what the shape of the deal looks like.”

He added: “I am hopeful that the EU will see that the vast majority of what we’re asking for are things that they’ve already agreed with other countries.

“The teams are hard at work.”

But the Chancellor also stressed the UK is fully prepared to trade with the rest of the world in a smooth and managed way regardless of any deal agreed with the EU. 

He said: “Obviously in the short term it would be preferable to have a deal, but we’ve put an enormous amount of effort and resource into preparing the country and businesses for the change in our trading relationships.

“Which is happening regardless of the exact shape of the trading arrangements that we can negotiate.

“So that’s hundreds of millions invested in improving our port infrastructure, border force officials, trade support services in Northern Ireland.”

With just five weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU’s orbit, both sides are trying to reach a trade deal that would avoid a tumultuous finale to the five-year Brexit crisis.

European Commission head, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Thursday that the bloc was ready for the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a new trade accord despite “genuine progress” in the tortuous Brexit talks.

An official involved in the negotiations said a deal was possible, but not likely before the weekend at the earliest. An EU diplomat said it was more likely to come next week.

Ireland’s prime minister said on Wednesday there was still time for a “good result” in trade talks between Britain and the European Union, though the bloc’s chief executive said the risk of a no-deal split on December 31 remained.

“Sometimes you can get a good result in extra time,” Ireland’s Micheal Martin said when asked if time was running out for an agreement.

The three main obstacles to a deal are fishing rights, ways to settle future disputes, and “level playing-field” rules to guarantee fair competition, including on state aid to companies.

Martin said he thought there was a “landing zone” in the negotiations over the level playing-field rules, which would lead to an agreement on a dispute resolution mechanism.

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The European Commission – which is negotiating with Britain on behalf of the 27-nation bloc – was due to update national envoys to the EU hub Brussels at 0700 GMT on Friday.

“We need to establish robust mechanisms, ensuring that competition is and remains free and fair over time. In the discussions about state aid, we still have serious issues, for instance when it comes to enforcement,” said von der Leyen.

The EU needed to be able to retaliate on trade if Britain undercuts labour or environmental standards, she said.

It also wanted long-term predictability for its fishing industry, which faces a reduced catch after Brexit.

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