Brexit deal creeps closer but Brussels warns ‘we just don’t see it’

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LONDON — The Brexit trade gap appears to be getting smaller, despite warnings from the EU that there’s a long way to go.

A trade deal between the U.K. and the EU would be “better for both sides,” Boris Johnson told European Council President Charles Michel in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, as Brussels and London entered an intensive phase of talks before next week’s EU summit.

The U.K. prime minister spoke to Michel with little more than a week to go before the European Council meeting, which Johnson has set as a deadline for reaching a deal on the U.K.-EU relationship after Brexit.

A Downing Street spokesperson said Johnson had outlined the U.K.’s “clear commitment to trying to reach an agreement, underlining that a deal was better for both sides.” The prime minister nonetheless reiterated the U.K.’s willingness to end the standstill transition period in December without a free-trade agreement and insisted that the British people “needed certainty very soon on the terms of our future relationship,” the spokesperson said.

In his own brief assessment of the call, Michel tweeted: “The EU prefers a deal, but not at any cost. Time for the U.K. to put its cards on the table.”

The two negotiating teams are seeking to thrash out remaining areas of division before the summit.

A senior EU official said after the call that Brussels was still unclear if the U.K. is willing to budge on key EU red lines,

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