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Brexit

UK's Gove says Brexit trade talks could go on beyond Christmas

FILE PHOTO: Flags of the Union Jack and European Union are seen through interpreters booth ahead of the meeting of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in Brussels, Belgium December 9, 2020. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - One of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior ministers said on Thursday that Britain hoped to reach a trade deal with the European Union but that talks might go on until after Christmas.

“When we think about the real deadline, I hope that we can conclude an agreement as quickly as possible but talks may go on until after Christmas,” Michael Gove told a parliamentary committee.

“We will want to ensure that parliament has a say, and a chance to scrutinise any agreement that’s reached, so realistically it’s in the days just immediately after Christmas.”

Gove, who earlier said the chances of a deal were less than 50%, said the EU might need to make a provisional application if an agreement was not concluded by Sunday.

The European Parliament said on Thursday it could hold an emergency plenary in late December if a deal is reached by Monday. If it came later EU diplomats said the bloc might still put it in place from Jan. 1, without lawmakers’ consent.

Gove also said negotiations would not continue into the new year, and that Britain and the EU would trade on World Trade Organisation terms if there was no free trade agreement (FDA).

“Of course it’s the case that there will be, as there would be between any set of neighbours, conversations,” he said.

“And those conversations may well involve the EU choosing, or our choosing, to make unilateral decisions that will make life easier for one or the other side, and it may well be that those unilateral decisions are reciprocated.” he added, saying it would be wrong to describe them as “side deals”.

“It certainly won’t be the case that we will be going back in to seek to secure an FDA. If it is the case that we can’t secure agreement by Dec. 31, that’s it.”

Reporting by William James and Michael Holden, editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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