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Brexit trade deal imminent, senior EU source says

A senior European diplomat told Reuters on Wednesday that a Brexit trade deal was imminent and could be clinched within hours, raising hopes that Britain and the European Union can avoid a turbulent economic rupture in just eight days.

There was no confirmation from Britain that a deal was about to be struck; the two sides have given a dizzying array of conflicting signals over recent days.

Since formally exiting the EU on Jan. 31, the United Kingdom has been negotiating a free trade deal with the bloc in an attempt to ease its exit from the single market and customs union at the end of this year.

An accord would ensure that the goods trade that makes up half of annual EU-UK commerce, worth nearly a trillion dollars in all, remains free of tariffs and quotas.

The senior diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said EU member states would have to approve a provisional application of the deal with effect from Jan. 1 because there was not enough time for the European Parliament to ratify it.

EU member states have started to prepare their procedure to implement any deal from Jan. 1, three diplomatic sources in the bloc told Reuters.

“It seems the deal is pretty much there. It’s a matter of announcing it today or tomorrow,” said one EU diplomat.

The diplomat said the Council, which represents the member states in Brussels, had started preparations to enable a “provisional application”, or fast-track implementation.

Britain for its part said that two significant issues – fishing and competition – still remained to be resolved and that there had not been sufficient progress for a deal. The Commission declined to comment.

Sterling jumped more than 1% against the dollar on the Reuters report. [GBP/] Source: Reuters (Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Kate Holton, Sujata Rao, Elizabeth Piper, Gabriela Baczynska, Michael Shields, Padraic Halpin; editing by Kevin Liffey)

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