Politics

Brexit LIVE: Boris holds crunch call with Irish leader ahead of Barnier and Frost showdown

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The Brexit transition period will end on December 31 with or without a trade deal between Britain and the European Union agreed. But concerns remain in negotiations over customs deals between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Last night, the Prime Minister held a crucial phone call with the Irish Taoiseach to discuss the progress in the UK-EU negotiations.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister underlined his commitment to reaching a deal that respects the sovereignty of the UK.

“The leaders also reaffirmed the need to prioritise the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

This crucial conversation comes just days after Mr Martin warned businesses to “get ready” for change and ruled out any possibility of a grace period for business after the transition period ends.

He said: “The bottom line is you need to get ready.

“That concern has been shared with me this morning in terms of preparation and readiness.

“There is still time for people to get ready.

“The deadline is January 1 because the UK will be outside of the customs union and outside of the single market.

“That’s the bottom line.

“It will be a third country in the context of the European Union.

“People just need to knuckle down now.

“If you work with the State agencies you will get a lot of assistance.”

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The issue of a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland has sparked concern across the Atlantic.

President-elect Joe Biden opened up about the importance of maintaining an open border between the two nations following the end of the transition period.

Speaking to reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, Mr Biden said: “We do not want a guarded border.

“We want to make sure we work too hard to get Ireland worked out.

“I’ve talked with the British prime minister; I’ve talked with the Taoiseach; I’ve talked with others and I’ve talked with the French.

“The idea of having the border north and south once again being closed, it’s just not right.

“We’ve just got to keep the border open.”

Mr Biden, who has made much of his Irish heritage, previously said there would be no UK-US trade deal if Britain violates the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Speaking in September the then presidential candidate said: “Any trade deal between the US and UK must be contingent upon respect for the agreement and preventing the return of a hard border. Period.”

It comes as Michel Barnier travelled to London on Friday for last-ditch trade talks with Lord David Frost to try to secure a trade deal.

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