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Raab calls on Brussels to be flexible and pragmatic to secure Brexit trade deal

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Pool

By Richard Wheeler and Elizabeth Arnold, PA Political Staff

EU officials must show goodwill and flexibility to secure a trade deal with the UK, according to the Foreign Secretary.

Dominic Raab told MPs he is hopeful the two sides can close the gap as intensive talks continue ahead of Boris Johnson’s self-imposed deadline.

Speaking in the Commons, Conservative Peter Bone (Wellingborough) said: “The Prime Minister has set this Thursday as the deadline for achieving a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union.

“Foreign Secretary, could you tell the House what is the likelihood that on Thursday evening you will be popping champagne corks?”

Mr Raab replied: “We have a European Council this week. The scope and the prospects for a deal are there.

“I’m hopeful we can close the gap but ultimately it’ll require the same goodwill, the same pragmatism and the same flexibility on the EU side that the United Kingdom and this Prime Minister have shown.”

Foreign Office minister Wendy Morton earlier reiterated the Government’s desire for a Canada-style free trade agreement with the EU.

She said: “We continue to work hard towards reaching an agreement with the EU.

“We want a deal with free trade provisions similar to those the EU agreed with Canada, and if this is not possible, we will have a trading relationship similar to how Australia trades with the EU.

“Either way we will be leaving the single market and the customs union.”

Her comments came in response to a question from Tory Suzanne Webb (Stourbridge), who argued in favour of a trade deal “that takes back control of our money, laws and borders, but that we should not be afraid to fall back to an Australian-style arrangement if necessary”.

Ms Morton also faced questions about protecting UK food standards in future trade deals.

On Monday, MPs voted to strip out of the Agriculture Bill measures developed by peers to block the import of foodstuffs produced abroad with lower animal welfare standards.

Tory Simon Jupp (East Devon) asked what discussions have been held with the Department for International Trade (DIT) to ensure the Government “sings from the same hymn sheet” in its future trade negotiations on food, animal welfare and environmental standards.

Ms Morton replied: “I can assure (him) that FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) ministers are in regular contact with DIT colleagues on a range of trade-related issues and the UK Government has been consistently clear that we will never sign a trade deal that would compromise the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards.

“All existing food safety provisions will be retained.”

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