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Trade Secretary Liz Truss hailed the UK’s agreement with Ivory Coast, saying it would “provide continuity for business and opportunities for the future”. Her praise for the pact came as negotiations with Brussels took a turn for the worse as the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator lashed out at the bloc’s stance on the failing talks.
UK chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said on Thursday he felt “disappointed” by the EU’s decision to put the onus on the UK to compromise before both sides could agree a new economic partnership.
The Prime Minister is expected to try to force trade talks to a crisis point with a no-deal ultimatum this morning after the EU insisted the UK side must be the one to move on key demands if a deal is to be sealed.
Ms Truss tweeted on Thursday: “Today trade agreement signed between UK and Côte d’Ivoire to provide continuity for business and opportunities for the future.”
International trade minister Ranil Jayawardena said: “Today, Britain and Côte d’Ivoire signed an Economic Partnership Agreement that will secure our existing trading arrangements from 1st January – and underpin further growth in the future.”
Last year UK trade with the West African nation was worth £401 million.
Cocoa beans and cocoa preparations accounted for the top imports, worth £192 million in total.
Imports of fruit and nuts, mostly bananas, accounted for £22 million worth of trade.
Six percent of Ivory Coast’s exported bananas and 23 percent of its cocoa butter were sent to the UK.
Mr Jayawardena said: “The preferential trading terms, secured by this agreement are part of HM Government’s commitment to supporting developing countries by reducing poverty through trade.
“Through providing tariff free market access to Britain, this agreement supports jobs and economic development in Côte d’Ivoire.
“It will underpin trade in processed cocoa and bananas, supporting the livelihoods of Ivorians working in these sectors and guaranteeing access for British consumers.”
As the second day of the two-day EU summit in Brussels kicked off on Friday morning, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said leaders are united on the most contentious issues of fishing rights, the single market and state aid.
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Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheal Martin called for mutual respect in trade negotiations between the UK and the bloc.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted there is a deal to be done with the EU after the bloc said the ball was in the UK’s court when it comes to making a move to secure an agreement.
During an interview with BBC radio on Friday, he said: “We’ve always said there’s a deal to be done.
“The issues are very narrow now in terms of there’s only really two issues at stake, so a deal should be able to be done but it must require goodwill on both sides.”
Asked if Prime Minister Boris Johnson would walk away from talks, Raab said: “Let’s see what the prime minister will say later, we’ll look at this very carefully and he’ll set out some further detail later today.”
Mr Johnson will make a bold statement in which he will emphasise talk of a no deal Brexit, British officials have said.
Sources said the “atmospherics were not good” at the summit on Thursday where European leaders united in their call for trade talks with London to continue.
The bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said: “We are absolutely determined to reach a fair deal with the UK.
“We will do everything that we can, but not at any price.”
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