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Von der Leyen: No deal is more likely than a post-Brexit trade pact

Britain is more likely to leave the EU single market without a trade deal in place than with one, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned the bloc's leaders at a summit, according to an EU source.

Britain is more likely to leave the EU single market without a trade deal in place than with one, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned the bloc’s leaders at a summit, according to an EU source.

The “situation is difficult” with major obstacles still in place, the head of the European Union’s executive branch said during a briefing on the state of negotiations on Friday, in comments passed on by an EU official.

Von der Leyen spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday, agreeing to have their negotiators plug on with talks until Sunday. Then they will make a decision on whether to proceed or whether to accept a no-deal Brexit, an outcome once considered only a remote possibility.

Britain left the EU at the end of January but remains in a post-Brexit transition period until the end of the year. If no deal governing future relations is clinched by then, the harshest of tariffs will be instated and cumbersome customs checks will slow down business on both sides.

A deal has been blocked mainly by disagreement on competition assurances – with the EU fearing Britain could try to undercut its business with lower environmental or social standards – EU access to British fishing waters, and how to govern disputes.

Johnson has also been pessimistic about the prospects of a deal in recent days.

With any agreement also in need of ratification, time is running out.

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