UK-EU trade talks back on after bloc offers olive branch

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European Council President Charles Michel addresses the chamber on a report of last weeks EU summit during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Olivier Hoslet, Pool via AP)

BRUSSELS – Britain and the European Union will resume their stalled trade negotiations at an “intensified” pace, the British government said Wednesday, in hope of striking a deal within weeks to avoid a messy economic breakup at the end of he year.

The announcement came five days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared that the talks were over unless the bloc made a “fundamental” change of policy,

There is little sign that has happened. But Britain seized on conciliatory comments by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, saying they offered the chance of a breakthrough.

Barnier has already agreed to “intensify” talks — a key U.K. demand — and to discuss the legal text of an agreement. On Wednesday he said compromise would be needed from both sides to get a deal.

That turned out to be the key. Britain has long complained that the EU expects it to make all the concessions.

Johnson’s office said that on the basis of Barnier's words it was “ready to welcome the EU team to London to resume negotiations later this week" for “intensified” talks.

“It is clear that significant gaps remain between our positions in the most difficult areas, but we are ready, with the EU, to see if it is possible to bridge them in intensive talks,” Downing St. said in a statement.

Barnier spokesman Daniel Ferrie said EU negotiators would travel to London on Thursday. The first chunk of negotiations is due to run through the weekend.