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UK can agree a 'fantastic' deal with EU, says Johnson

by David Hughes and Andrew Woodcock

Boris Johnson has insisted that the UK will be able to strike a "fantastic" deal with the EU, but acknowledged there could be some "bumps in the road" during Brexit talks.

The Foreign Secretary said there was no reason why talks should not progress at "full tilt" to secure a trade deal alongside the divorce agreement during the two-year countdown that will start when Prime Minister Theresa May triggers Article 50 by the end of March.

Mr Johnson was speaking after a Cabinet discussion on progress towards Brexit negotiations, at which the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davis, told senior ministers their departments must prepare not only for Britain's "most important peacetime agreement", but also for "the unlikely scenario that no mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached".

Addressing the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) conference in London, the Foreign Secretary said the UK's compliance with EU red tape meant it was in a different position to other prospective trade partners.

"We have an unrivalled opportunity," he added. "It is unlike any other free trade deal the EU has ever done in the sense that we are already exactly flush with our friends and partners on standards and tariffs and everything else."

He continued that there was "no reason at all" why the country should not be able to strike "a fantastic deal that is as frictionless as possible for British business".

Mr Johnson acknowledged, however, that it depended how our friends and partners choose to handle it", with some of the major players in Brexit talks facing domestic "electoral considerations".

The BCC has set out a series of demands for Brexit, including potentially delaying the break from the EU if a trade deal cannot be struck by the end of the two-year negotiation process.

Mr Johnson said he wanted to go "full tilt and get it done within two years".

He added: "I'm not saying there won't be some bumps in the road, I'm not saying that from time to time some plaster won't come off the ceiling.

"But there's a lot of goodwill, and that goodwill is building rather than diminishing."

The BCC said concluding both the divorce arrangements and a new trade deal within the two years allowed by Article 50 would be the "ideal outcome".

However, it added: "Should this prove impossible, we should seek an extension to the negotiating period to enable completion of agreements concurrently."

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