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Brexit talks facing moment of truth as UK says will leave EU without a deal if it has to

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Talks on a deal between Britain and the European Union on their future relationship face a moment of truth ahead of a meeting of EU leaders next week, European Council President Charles Michel said on Thursday.

Michel, speaking in Dublin after talks with Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin, urged Britain to put its cards on the table, saying the bloc needed clarity about their position.

“The coming days are crucial. This is the moment of truth. There is only one week to go before the European Council” meeting on Oct. 15-16, Michel told journalists.

“This is a challenging situation. We think we need more clarity and we will see if it is possible to make real and concrete progress,” he said.

The two sides say they are inching towards a deal that would govern around $900 billion in trade after Dec. 31 – when the current transitional arrangements end – though sticking points remain on fishing, level playing field issues and governance.

Martin said the mood around the talks had changed in recent weeks, leading to intensified engagement between the two sides.

“But mood is one thing, it does need substance to follow,” Martin said.

The United Kingdom formally left the EU on Jan. 31, more than three years after it voted 52%-48% for Brexit in a 2016 referendum. The two sides are now trying to work out how everything from cars to Camembert to whisky will trade. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is prepared to fully leave the European Union without a deal when the Brexit transition period ends, his spokesman said on Thursday, but the British leader still believes there is a deal to be done.

“He thinks there is a deal to be done and we have a clear commitment to trying to reach an agreement,” the spokesman said before adding two further points.

“First is, time is in short supply. And secondly … we are prepared to end the transition period on Australian-style terms if a deal can’t be found” 

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