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The transition period has now officially ended.

Trade deal back on?

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A couple of days ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson released a video message saying that trade talks with the EU would end up without agreement and that UK businesses should now prepare for a no deal, or Australian-style deal, exit from the European Union.

But there appears to have been a shift in rhetoric, and talks look to be back on.

Yesterday the Government released a statement on further UK-EU negotiations, with the Prime Minister’s office saying they watched in interest a statement from Michel Barnier to the European Parliament.

Key in the EU’s chief negotiator’s comments was that ‘any future agreement will be made in respect of the decision-making autonomy of the European Union and with respect for British sovereignty’.

Those last two words seem to have pushed the negotiating door slightly further ajar, with the PM’s office noting in their statement that: “The Prime Minister and Michael Gove have both made clear in recent days that a fundamental change in approach was needed from the EU from that shown in recent weeks.

“They made clear that the EU had to be serious about talking intensively, on all issues, and bringing the negotiation to a conclusion. They were also clear that the EU had to accept once again that it was dealing with an independent and sovereign country and that any agreement would need to be consistent with that status.

“We welcome the fact that Mr. Barnier acknowledged both points this morning, and additionally that movement would be needed from both sides in the talks if agreement was to be reached.”

Intensified negotiations will start this week, although clear red lines remain for both sides.

The statement continued that: “As to the substance, we note that Mr. Barnier set out the principles that the EU has brought to this negotiation, and that he also acknowledged the UK’s established red lines. It is clear that significant gaps remain between our positions in the most difficult areas, but we are ready, with the EU, to see if it is possible to bridge them in intensive talks. For our part, we remain clear that the best and most established means of regulating the relationship between two sovereign and autonomous parties is one based on a free trade agreement.”

Read more: Is a Free Trade Agreement with the EU make or break for the UK Economy Post-Brexit?

“As both sides have made clear, it takes two to reach an agreement. It is entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed. If so, the UK will end the transition period on Australia terms and will prosper in doing so.

“It is essential now that UK businesses, hauliers, and travellers prepare actively for the end of the transition period, since change is coming, whether an agreement is reached or not.”

For more information about Brexit, advice on how to prepare, and free webinars, visit our Brexit Knowledge Bank.

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