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Britain, EU agree to pursue mini-deals if talks fail next week

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Britain and the European Union have agreed to pursue ‘mini-deals’ in areas of mutual interest, such as aviation and road transport, even if trade negotiations for a wider deal break down next week, The Times reported on Saturday.

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost have agreed that even if a wider deal proves impossible to reach on Oct. 15, contact will continue, The Times said.

In such an event, the two sides would spend November attempting to put together mini-deals to offset the likely disruption when the transition period ends on Dec. 31, the newspaper said, without citing sources.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set a deadline of the Oct. 15 EU summit for a deal, but the two sides are still haggling over a trade deal that would kick in when informal membership ends on Dec. 31. 

Barnier, who left London on Friday just 12 hours after arriving, wants a few more concessions from Britain before entering the so called “tunnel” – the final stretch of highly secretive, make-or-break negotiations.

“We need to get a little bit more from the UK side before he (Barnier) … is ready to enter the tunnel,” said a senior EU diplomat.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said some progress had been made but the two sides did not yet see eye to eye on all matters.

“We’ve had useful discussions this week and progress has been made in some areas. However, there still remain differences on some important issues,” the spokesman said.

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