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Brexit talks continue between Michel Barnier and Lord Frost

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor

Post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and European Union will continue in London over the weekend as Michel Barnier said both sides have a “common responsibility” to strike a deal.

The European Union’s chief negotiator is expected to continue “intensive” discussions with his UK counterpart Lord Frost as the deadline for an agreement looms.

Talks had been in limbo after Boris Johnson’s deadline for a deal passed last week, but they resumed on Thursday as Brussels said both sides needed to compromise on trade issues.

Mr Barnier arrived in London on Thursday evening wearing a face covering printed with the EU flag.

He told reporters: “I think we have a huge common responsibility.”

“Every day counts.”

A Number 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing on Friday: “Intensive talks are continuing and they will continue over the weekend until the 25th.”

“We’ve published a set of principles for handling these intensified talks and they will continue over the weekend.”

Number 10 has previously acknowledged that “significant gaps” remain between the two sides and it was “entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed.”

The main stumbling blocks remain fishing rights, the governance of any deal and the “level playing field” aimed at preventing unfair competition, which includes state subsidies.

Time is short to reach an agreement before the end of the transition period on December 31.

Both sides had previously said a deal would need to be reached by mid-October in order to allow time for ratification.

Meanwhile, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss on Friday signed a free trade agreement with Japan, hailing it as the dawn of a new era of free trade.

The UK-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) was agreed in principle last month.

Labour has previously said the net benefit of the deal would amount to just 0.07% of GDP.

At a signing ceremony in Tokyo, Ms Truss told reporters: “How fitting it is to be in the Land of the Rising Sun to welcome in the dawn of a new era of free trade.”

In a statement, she called the deal “a landmark moment for Britain.”

“It shows what we can do as an independent trading nation, as we secure modern and bespoke provisions in areas like tech and services that are critical to the future of our country and the reshaping of our economy,” Ms Truss said.

“Trade is a powerful way to deliver the things people really care about.”

“At its heart, this deal is about creating opportunity and prosperity for all parts of our United Kingdom and driving the economic growth we need to overcome the challenges of coronavirus.”

“The agreement also has a much wider strategic significance.”

“It opens a clear pathway to membership of the Comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will open new opportunities for British business and boost our economic security, and strengthens ties with a like-minded democracy, key ally and major investor in Britain.”

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