Boris Johnson speaks with Macron as Brexit deadline looms

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Boris Johnson at Downing Street

Boris Johnson has held down-to-the-wire Brexit talks with Emmanuel Macron as the clock ticks towards the deadline for a Brexit deal.

The UK’s Prime Minister and French president spoke on the telephone Saturday with seemingly just days to go for an agreement on a future trade settlement to be struck.

Mr Johnson told the key EU leader he would “explore every avenue” to secure a deal, but was prepared to leave the Brexit transition period at the end of the year on Australian-style terms with Brussels if necessary.

Both sides have said an agreement needs to be struck in October to ensure sufficient time for ratification.

Mr Johnson has previously said he wants agreement on a free trade deal by the time of next week’s EU summit in the Belgian capital on Thursday.

A spokesman for Johnson said: “The Prime Minister… set out the latest state of play in the negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

“He confirmed the UK’s commitment to exploring every avenue to reach an agreement.

“He underlined that a deal was better for both sides, but also that the UK was prepared to end the transition period on Australia-style terms if an agreement could not be found.

“The Prime Minister emphasised that progress must be made in the coming days to bridge the significant gaps, notably in the areas of fisheries and the level playing field, through the process of intensive talks between chief negotiators agreed with the president of the European Commission.

“The leaders agreed to keep in touch on the issue.”

The telephone talks came ahead of UK and EU negotiators resuming informal negotiations next week in Brussels, with time running out for agreement on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Lead negotiators Michel Barnier and Lord Frost met on Friday for face-to-face discussions in London.

The two leaders also discussed the coronavirus crisis in their bilateral discussions.

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