November 15, 2019 / 1:08 PM / 22 days ago

Irish PM says EU-UK free-trade deal possible by end: 2020

Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar speaks during a joint news conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at the European Union leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

DUBLIN (Reuters) - It may be possible to negotiate a new free-trade deal between Britain and the European Union by the end of next year if it does not diverge significantly from current trading terms, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Friday.

“In terms of negotiating a trade agreement before December 2020, I think that is difficult but not impossible” if Britain ratifies its EU withdrawal agreement by its current Jan. 31 deadline, Varadkar told journalists in Dublin.

“The more like the status quo, the quicker it will be,” Varadkar said, but added that ratification by 27 member states may not be possible by the end of 2020, the scheduled end of a proposed Brexit transition phase.

Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Andrew Heavens

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