Summit chairman says EU wants UK trade deal but 'not at any cost'

European Council President Charles Michel attends the face-to-face EU summit in Brussels, Belgium October 15, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU summit chairman Charles Michel said on Thursday the bloc’s national leaders had decided to go on talking to Britain to try close gaps on new trade ties but also moved to step up their contingency preparations in case of a chaotic split.

“We are united and determined to reach an agreement but not at any cost,” Michel said, announcing the decision by EU leaders representing the bloc’s 27 nations.

He said guaranteeing fishing rights, finding ways to settle disputes and safeguarding fair competition were crucial to protect “hundreds of thousands of European jobs.”

“We are 100% united,” he said, in also telling Britain “to make the necessary moves” to unlock a deal.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Catherine Evans