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The UK-EU trade talks received an infusion of impetus from the Prime Minister yesterday, who said a deal is possible before the end of July.

EU leaders have responded positively to the call to action and are now looking to find common ground in hopes of agreeing to a deal before the autumn at the latest.

‘Tiger in tank’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday called the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in the first direct communication between the leaders about the future trading relationship since January.

The PM called on the EU to ‘put a tiger in the tank’ of the talks.

“It is very clear what we need to achieve,” he said. “I don’t think we’re that far apart, but what we need is a bit of oomph in the negotiations, and I was pleased that Ursula von der Leyen [and other EU officials] all agree”

“There is no reason why we shouldn’t get this done in July,” he added.

Mutual interest

EU leaders agreed a deal is possible and that it was in their mutual interests to find one.

Charles Michel, President of the EU Council, tweeted that the EU was “ready to put a tiger in the tank but not to buy a pig in a poke”.

“A level playing field is essential,” Michel said.

Sticking points

According to the FT there remain four major areas of disagreement in the talks:

  • EU fishing rights in UK waters
  • EU demands for “level playing field” rules
  • The structure of security co-operation
  • The governance arrangements for the future partnership

Political will

If the UK and EU were to fail to agree a deal before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, the UK would resume trade with the bloc on WTO rules.

Addressing a parliamentary select committee hearing last week, Professor Catherine Barnard, professor of EU law at the University of Cambridge, said that “trading on WTO terms isn’t good enough for an advanced state like the UK” but that she hoped a deal would prevent this.

Talking to The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC on Sunday, outgoing director general of the WTO Roberto Azevedo advised a deal is possible provided there is “political will”.

He said the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic would be “better” if it avoided the “turbulence” of not finding a deal with the EU and resorting to WTO rules.