Brexit: Alok Sharma admits ‘we are in a difficult phase’
Britain and its fourth-largest trading partner Switzerland are expected to agree on a plan to allow professional workers to continue travelling freely between both nations today. The deal is a huge victory for Britain as it means the nation’s 383,000 business professionals will not require when travelling between the two when it finally unshackles itself from the EU.
Trade Secretary Liz Truss and her Swiss counterpart Guy Parmelin are expected to sign the agreement in the next two weeks in London, according to The Daily Telegraph.
David Henig, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy and a former UK trade negotiator, said it would have been “painful” without the agreement.
He added: “There are quite a few international bodies in Switzerland. This agreement keeps things going in financial services, pharmaceuticals and physics – it’s decent to a small audience. Without it, it would have been painful.”
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A senior government source hailed the agreement, saying: “Outside the EU we have the chance to push new frontiers in areas like services trade and to build a network of deals that are more suited to UK interests and strengths.
“Switzerland, as a fellow services powerhouse, is an important partner for Global Britain.”
The news comes as Brexit talks go down to the wire.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma this morning warned Brexit trade talks are in the difficult phase and a deal can only be struck if the EU accepts that Britain is a sovereign nation.
With less than four weeks left until the United Kingdom finally exits the EU’s orbit on December 31, both sides are calling on the other to compromise over fishing, state aid and how to resolve any future disputes.
On Thursday, a senior British government source said the prospect of a breakthrough was slipping but was still possible.
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Mr Sharma told Sky TV: “We are at a critical phase.
“It is fair to say that we are in a difficult phase, there are some tricky issues still to be resolved.”
“Right from the start of this process, we’ve always said that a deal can only be done if the EU recognises that the UK is a sovereign independent nation.
“It is on the basis of that a deal will be done.”
Britain formally left the EU on January 31 but has been in a transition period since then under which rules on trade, travel and business remain unchanged. From the end of the year it will be treated by Brussels as a third country.
If the two sides fail to reach a deal, the five-year Brexit divorce would end in disorder just as Europe grapples with the vast economic cost of the COVID-19 outbreak.
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