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EU, UK Say Big Differences Remain as Brexit Talks Go to the Wire

The European Union and Britain said on Friday there were still substantial differences over a Brexit trade deal as the EU chief negotiator prepared to travel to London in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a tumultuous finale to the five-year Brexit crisis.

With just five weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU’s orbit on Dec. 31, both sides are calling on the other to compromise on the three main issues of contention – fishing, state aid and how to resolve any future disputes.

The two sides will shortly resume face-to-face negotiations after they had to be suspended last week when one of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for Covid-19.

“Clearly there are substantial and important differences still to be bridged but we’re getting on with it,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters.

“The likelihood of a deal is very much determined by our friends and partners in the EU — there’s a deal there to be done if they want to do it.”

Barnier said on Twitter he would travel to London on Friday evening for talks with Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost.

“Same significant divergences persist,” Barnier said.

Neither side has so far shown a willingness to shift enough on the three outstanding issues to allow a breakthrough.

“It is late, but a deal is still possible, and I will continue to talk until it’s clear that it isn’t,” Frost said.

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