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UK Brexit negotiator says deal is '80% agreed'

Dominic Raab held talks with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier earlier this week.

Dominic Raab has promised unilateral action in the event of a no-deal Brexit
Dominic Raab has promised unilateral action in the event of a no-deal Brexit
Image: PA Images

Updated Aug 23rd 2018, 2:45 PM

THE UK’S BREXIT Secretary has said Britain and the European Union have reached agreements on about 80% of issues relating to Britain leaving the EU.

However, the Irish border issue remains unresolved.

Dominic Raab today outlined plans for managing the fallout in the “unlikely” scenario of Brexit talks collapsing, warning that businesses faced more customs red tape and consumers risked higher card payment charges.

He also said Britain would adopt a series of EU rules in the case of a no-deal scenario to allow EU imports in, and urged Brussels to do the same for British goods.

Raab said Britain would continue to recognise batch testing and EU certifications for medicine to avoid disruption but said the government would in any case stockpile medicines for an extra six weeks on top of the existing period of three months.

Raab insisted he was “still confident” of reaching an agreement with the EU ahead of its planned departure on 29 March 2019 and said the failure of talks was “unlikely”.

“I remain confident a good deal is within our sights, and that remains our top, and overriding, priority,” Raab said at a speech in London as the government published the first of a series of “technical notices” to advise different sectors of the economy on how to handle negotiations collapsing.

Increase in cost of card payments 

“If the EU responds with the same level of ambition and pragmatism, we will strike a strong deal that benefits both sides. But we must be ready to consider the alternative,” he said.

In some cases, it means taking unilateral action to maintain as much continuity as possible in the short term, in the event of no deal — irrespective of whether the EU reciprocates.

In the scenarios outlined by the government, Britons were warned of possible “increased costs and slower processing times” for euro transactions and told that “the cost of card payments between the UK and the EU will likely increase”.

Consumers may also have to pay more for online shopping and cross-border payments would also no longer be covered by a “surcharging ban” under EU rules, the technical notices said.

Surcharges, which were banned by the EU in January, cost Britons £166 million (€185 million euros) in 2015.

Another notice advised businesses that they could face additional customs costs and should consider buying appropriate software or hiring a customs broker.

The Brexit talks have been stuck for quite some time on a set of fundamental issues, including how a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland will be avoided and the future trading relationship between the UK and EU.

Earlier this week, Raab held talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels with the pair pledging to meet regularly in an attempt to move negotiations forward.

A no-deal Brexit remains a distinct possibility, with international trade secretary Liam Fox saying this month the chance of this happening was “60-40″.

Raab is only new in the job, after taking the reins from David Davis who resigned from the post of Brexit secretary over Theresa May’s proposed strategy.

© AFP 2018 with reporting by Sean Murray and Órla Ryan 

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