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Listen up, Michel! MEPs threaten to BLOCK Brexit deal even if Barnier approves it

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Senior members of the European Parliament have hinted they are still prepared to veto the free-trade agreement if the Brussels diplomat doesn’t present a “sufficiently balanced” compromise. Their warning comes as Mr Barnier is locked in intensive online negotiations with UK counterpart Lord Frost as time runs out to secure a future relationship pact. Talks resumed online yesterday after they were brought to a halt last week when an EU official tested positive for coronavirus.

The Frenchman is expected to travel to London for face-to-face talks later this week.

Disputes over future access to Britain’s fishing waters and common standards, including state aid rules, are holding up a significant breakthrough.

With EU sources expecting a last-gasp trade-off between fisheries and the level playing field, some are now worried Mr Barnier will go too far in order to secure a deal and preserve his legacy.

EU Parliament Brexit sherpa Christophe Hansen said: “If there is a deal, I believe it will be sufficiently balanced that the European Parliament can give its consent.

“Otherwise, there will be no deal. Michel Barnier knows very well what we expect from him. And that is the reason why consent will be given.”

Boris Johnson is expected to personally intervene in the trade talks amid rising hope a deal can be secured in the coming days.

Downing Street said there are still issues that need to be resolved as talks resumed yesterday.

But the Prime Minister and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are to talk to push an agreement over the line.

No10 said Parliament has shown that it can “act at pace” when it needs to pass legislation swiftly.

Brussels is hoping to have a pact signed off by Monday to allow a law to be passed in the European Parliament on December 28.

Mr Hansen said the bloc would have to meet Mr Johnson’s fisheries demands for an agreement.

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The Luxembourger MEP said: “There will be compromises to be made on fisheries. The status quo, that is somewhere we’re not going to land.”

Bernd Lange, the EU Parliament’s trade chief, said: “It’s already five past midnight. We need a text, otherwise ratification and democratic scrutiny by the European Parliament will be a farce.”

A No10 spokesman said: “We will take back control of access to our waters.”

He insisted there will no extension to the transition period.

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Irish premier Micheal Martin fuelled hopes.

He said: “I would be hopeful that by the end of this week we could see the outline of a deal. That remains to be seen. It’s down to political will.

“One must remain hopeful that a deal can be arrived at.”

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Britons furious as Biden picks Brexit-hater for top US job – ‘We are NOT America’s poodle’

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Joe Biden, who will take over from Donald Trump next January, named Antony Blinken as his choice for secretary of state. Mr Blinken has been a longtime confidant of the President-elect, and has also expressed highly critical views of Brexit.

Mr Blinken, who served as deputy national security adviser in President Barack Obama’s administration, once described Britain’s decision to exit the EU as a “total mess” and compared it to far-right Marine Le Pen’s rise in France.

Speaking on the Pod Save the World podcast, the American previously described the UK’s handling of Brexit as “the dog that caught the car and then the car goes into reverse and runs over the dog. It’s a total mess”.

He said “our interests would have been in keeping Britain in”.

Express.co.uk readers have reacted furiously to the news, as the UK has yet to agree a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

But many readers were optimistic that Mr Biden’s Presidency would not thwart the UK’s success once it had left the EU.

One person wrote: “Biden can pick who he wants, it will make no difference to the UK, trade is trade, and we have the rest of the world, plus four years is not long to wait until Biden is history.”

Another said: “Good for him… I hope he will be very happy with his Brexit hating buddy…

“Meanwhile the UK continues to progress without the help of this idiot!”

JUST IN: Brexit fisheries row: EU fishermen fear ‘we will go bankrupt’

A third fumed: “We are NOT AMERICAS POODLE if Joe doesn’t want to trade with the uk well ce la vie we are able to trade around the world with bigger friends than Joe, so bring it on!”

One user claimed anyone who opposes Brexit is also opposed to democracy.

They wrote: “If he hates Brexit he hates democracy.”

Another reader said: “Staying in the EU, would have been a ‘Blinkin mess’.”

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One reader said the UK should not fear Mr Blinken’s appointment, and suggested Britain should ditch hopes of a trade deal with the US altogether.

They wrote: “Are we supposed to be scared of this person.

“If that is the intent then its failed dramatically and to be honest I for one would not like a deal under Biden or the democrats, too biased for me and sane thinking people!”

Another person suggested Mr Blinken will be “powerless” to act on his anti-Brexit views.

They wrote: “Yes Blinken can voice his displeasure but ultimately is powerless to affect any meaningful political change in the UK, but he’s welcome to his beliefs.”

Boris Johnson has so far sought to prioritise a UK-US free trade agreement.

But his efforts may be about to hit a brick wall, as Mr Biden opposes Brexit and has reservations about the Prime Minister, who he once likened to a “physical and emotional clone” of Mr Trump.

The President-elect is likely to forge closer ties with the EU during his tenure, which could hamper the UK’s attempts to secure a prosperous trade deal with the US.

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Feds agree to help Biden transition after more Trump defeats

LANSING, Mich. — After weeks of delay, the federal government acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden was the “apparent winner” of the Nov. 3 election on Monday and cleared the way for cooperation on a transition of power. The move came after President Donald Trump suffered yet more legal and procedural defeats in his futile effort to overturn the election with baseless claims of fraud.

Trump’s effort to stave off the inevitable — formal recognition of his defeat — is facing increasingly stiff resistance from the courts and fellow Republicans with just three weeks to go until the Electoral College meets to certify Biden’s victory.

Time and again, Trump’s challenges and baseless allegations of widespread conspiracy and fraud have been met with rejection as states move forward with confirming their results.

In Michigan, the Board of State Canvassers, which has two Republicans and two Democrats, confirmed the state results on a 3-0 vote with one GOP abstention. Trump and his allies had hoped to block the vote to allow time for an audit of ballots in Wayne County, where Trump has claimed without evidence that he was the victim of fraud. Biden crushed the president by more than 330,000 votes there.

Under Michigan law, Biden claims all 16 electoral votes. Biden won the state by 2.8 percentage points — a larger margin than in other states where Trump is contesting the results like Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

“The board’s duty today is very clear,” said Aaron Van Langevelde, the Republican vice chair. “We have a duty to certify this election based on these returns. That is very clear.”

Some Trump allies had expressed hope that state lawmakers could intervene in selecting Republican electors in states that do not certify. That longshot and legally dubious bid is no longer possible in Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement after the vote that it was “time to put this election behind us.”

“President-elect Biden won the State of Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, and he will be our next president on January 20th.”

The Trump legal team dismissed the certification as “simply a procedural step” and insisted it would fight on.

Mary Ellen Gurewitz, an attorney for the state Democratic Party, told the canvassers that attacks on the election results were “part of a racist campaign, directed by soon-to-be former President Trump, to disparage the cities in this country with large Black populations, including Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.”

Trump has tried to defy the results of the election through the courts. Having no luck there, he moved on to trying to personally influence local lawmakers to ignore the popular vote and appoint Republican electors, a strategy that would send Americans into the streets in protest, election law experts have said. Two local GOP canvassers who certified Wayne County results last week unsuccessfully tried to reverse course after being called by Trump.

Trump met with top Michigan GOP legislators at the White House on Friday and tweeted over the weekend: “We will show massive and unprecedented fraud!”

Trump was facing setbacks in other battleground states as well.

In Pennsylvania, a conservative Republican judge shot down the Trump campaign’s biggest legal effort with a scathing ruling that asked why he would disenfranchise 7 million voters with no evidence to back the campaign’s claims and an inept legal argument at best.

But Trump’s lawyers still hope to block the state’s certification, quickly appealing to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. The court ordered lawyers to file a brief Monday but did not agree to hear oral arguments.

The campaign, in its filings, asked for urgent consideration so it could challenge the state election results before they are certified next month. If not, they will seek to decertify them, the filings said.

Trump’s team insisted it did not want to invalidate all of the 6.8 million ballots cast in the state. Instead, the lawyers said they were taking aim at seven Democratic-leaning counties where they take issue with how mail-in ballots were handled.

“Appellants seek to exclude the defective mail ballots which overwhelming favored Biden, which may turn the result of the election,” they said in a filing Monday.

Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes. Other litigation has failed to change a single vote.

Pennsylvania county election boards were voting on Monday, the state deadline, on whether to certify local election results to the Department of State. The boards in two populous counties divided along party lines, with majority Democrats in both places voting to certify.

After all counties have sent certified results to Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, she must then tabulate, compute and canvass votes for all races. The law requires her to perform that task quickly but does not set a specific deadline.

In Wisconsin, a recount in the state’s two largest liberal counties moved into its fourth day at a slow pace, with election officials in Milwaukee County complaining that Trump observers were hanging up the process with frequent challenges. Trump’s hope of reversing Biden’s victory there depends on disqualifying thousands of absentee ballots — including the in-person absentee ballot cast by one of Trump’s own campaign attorneys in Dane County.

Associated Press Writers Maryclaire Dale in Philadelphia, Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pa., Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and John Flesher in Traverse City, Mich. contributed to this report.

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Brexit deal done in DAYS as Boris phones Von der Leyen to secure trade agreement with EU

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Downing Street said there are still issues that need to be resolved as talks resumed today. But the Prime Minister and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are poised to talk to push an agreement over the line.

Irish premier Micheal Martin fuelled hopes of a breakthrough being made within days.

He said: “I would be hopeful that by the end of this week we could see the outline of a deal.

“That remains to be seen. It’s down to political will. One must remain hopeful that a deal can be arrived at.”

But Government sources warned the assessment was “optimistic”.

MPs and MEPs are facing emergency sittings to rush through any deal before the end of the year.

No 10 said Parliament has shown that it can “act at pace” when it needs to pass legislation swiftly.

Brussels is hoping to have a pact signed off by Monday to allow legislation to be passed in the European Parliament at a special sitting on December 28.

Talks resumed online today after they were brought to an abrupt halt last week when an EU official tested positive for coronavirus.

READ MORE ON OUR BREXIT LIVE BLOG

Negotiators Lord Frost and Michel Barnier are expected to meet face to face again at the end of the week.

Mr Barnier said: “Time is short. Fundamental divergences still remain, but we are continuing to work hard for a deal.”

Fishing rights and state subsidies are the key outstanding issues holding up progress.

A No 10 spokesman said the UK has been very clear that it will become an independent coastal nation.

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“We will take back control of access to our waters,” he added.

The spokesman insisted there will not be any extension to the transition period.

Brussels sources expect a last-minute trade-off on the so-called level-playing field and reduced access to Britain’s coastal waters to help get a deal across the line.

EU Parliament Brexit representative Christophe Hansen said the bloc would have to be prepared to meet Boris Johnson’s fisheries demands in order to clinch an agreement.

The Luxembourgish MEP said: “There will be compromises to be made on fisheries.

“The status quo, that is somewhere we’re not going to land.”

Bernd Lange, the EU Parliament’s trade chief, said: “It’s already five past midnight.

“We need a text, otherwise ratification and democratic scrutiny by the European Parliament will be a farce.”

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Unacceptable! SNP accused of ‘not learning lessons’ from coronavirus chaos in care homes

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It comes after more than almost 2,000 elderly residents of care homes died during the first wave of coronavirus earlier this year. Scotland Health Secretary Jeane Freeman came under fire after she claimed it was “entirely right and proper” for patients to be discharged to the homes without first being given the all-clear under clinical guidance.

 

Under Government guidance, current policy states two negative tests are needed for a patient who was being treated for COVID-19 to be discharged into a care home.

Meanwhile, one negative test would be needed if they were dealing with another health problem.

However, Ms Freeman stressed this policy was not always followed and said clinicians had the power to discharge a patient to a care home without a negative test result in “exceptional circumstances”.

The SNP led Scottish Government has repeatedly come under fire for its handling of care homes during the pandemic.

A report released last month by Public Health Scotland found more than 100 people were discharged from hospital to care homes in the early part of the pandemic without first testing negative for coronavirus.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon disputed this claiming the report showed hospital discharges did not increase the likelihood of a coronavirus outbreak in care homes.

In answer to a parliamentary question from Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, the Health Secretary said the discharge should only be allowed if “it is in the clinical interests of the person to be moved”.

The Scottish Labour MSP accused the Health Secretary of “throwing doctors and social workers under the bus for following her guidance”.

She said: “People known to have COVID-19 should not be placed in care homes and Jeane Freeman must put a stop to this dangerous practice immediately before more lives are lost.

“Thousands of older and disabled people living in care homes have been forbidden from even talking to their loved one through the window, yet the Scottish Government is allowing residents to bring the virus through the back door.

“Too many lives have already been sacrificed. This must end today.”

Donald Cameron MSP, Scottish Conservative Health spokesperson, added: “When I heard the health secretary suggest people may be sent to care homes without getting a COVID-19 test, I was genuinely shocked.

“There were always going to be mistakes made in the first wave of this pandemic.

“Everyone accepts that. We were tackling a virus few people understood.

“What nobody will accept, or forgive, is that we don’t seem to have learned any lessons.

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“From what the SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said, she hasn’t learned much.

Mr Cameron accused the SNP of “dodging responsibility” and added: “Instead of stepping up and saying ‘yes, we got this wrong’, the SNP has evaded questions at every turn.

“The first time around, mistakes were unacceptable but they were also understandable. This time around, there is no longer any excuse.”

But Ms Freeman said the final decision would be made by health and social work professionals, adding it would not be appropriate for politicians to intervene.

Speaking to the BBC, she said: “If and where older people are being discharged from hospital into a care home or back into their own home without the two negative tests for coronavirus that we have in our policy position, that will be a clinical decision made by a clinical team and the social work team that are working with that elderly person and their family.

 

“It is entirely right and proper, I think, that clinicians who are experienced in elderly care and medical care and social work staff experienced in social work support for older people are the ones who will make the final decision.”

Ms Freeman sought to reassure those with concerns, saying this was an “exception” to the current rules.

She added: “The care homes themselves take serious responsibility about their infection prevention and control procedures, and do their very, very best to follow our guidance, with our support, on PPE and other matters.

“It is not right, and I don’t believe your viewers would expect, me as a non-medical, non-clinical politician to be intervening in that decision.”

 

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Boris Johnson CUTS OUT during Covid live stream: MPs mock PM ‘have you pressed the button’

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One MP was left asking if the Prime Minister had “paid the electric” as his connection with the House of Commons cut off on Monday.

It came during the Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons as Boris Johnson set out the next stages of the Government’s fight against coronavirus.

The Prime Minister is currently working from home after coming into contact with a colleague who tested positive for the virus.

This is a breaking story…more to follow

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‘They can sling their hook!’ Britons furious as France warns UK fishing terms WON’T change

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France has been fervently opposed to any changes to the current fishing policies in a post-Brexit trade with the UK. The hardline stance has caused havoc in negotiations, and the latest claims by the French have infuriated Express.co.uk readers.

Nathalie Loiseau, a close ally of President Emmanuel Macron, has claimed the CFP has “so far been a success”.

When questioned by Sky News’ Sophy Ridge whether it was right for British fishermen to have access to more fish, the French MEP responded: “Why should we ruin something that works?”

The exchange provoked a furious response from Express.co.uk readers, who took to the comment section to state the CFP has not been beneficial for British trawlers.

One person said: “‘Thanks’ to the common fisheries policy, we have lost almost half our fishing fleet over the past 30 years and become a net importer of fish netted in our waters!

“It is time to take back that which is rightfully ours!”

A second reader wrote: “The Common Fisheries Policy has been a huge success for the French, and other EU countries.

“It allowed them to gain control of the UK’s natural resource our fisheries.

“That is a mistake we made that is being rectified.

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“The EU and particularly the French can sling their hook into someone else’s waters.”

A third fumed: “Just illustrates how ‘simple minded’ many Eurocrats are …!!

“Suggesting the rip-off of +80 percent of our fish … could be considered … good for us.

“A success for who exactly? Certainly … not the UK.”

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Readers continued to mock Ms Loiseau’s claim the CFP has been beneficial for all states.

One person said: “The CFP decimated British fishing when it was introduced.

“We don’t give a damn now about how EU fishermen will suffer as a result of the UK leaving the EU.

“No one in the EU gave a damn when British fishermen had to sell or moor their boats while their business were closing down in droves.

“If the CFP works for the EU then let it…………just stay out of UK waters that are no longer part of the EU CFP rip off.”

A second reader wrote: “The French would say the CFP has been a success wouldn’t they, after all it is done in such a way that they get the lions share of fish caught and the UK get scraps.”

Fishing remains of the biggest hurdles to a deal between Britain and the EU, though the two sides are believed to be nearing an agreement.

Whitehall officials are confident a deal can be secured by November 30th so draft legislation can be passed.

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Matt Hancock warns Britons to sacrifice ‘until Easter’ despite Oxford vaccine breakthrough

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Matt Hancock welcomed news from Oxford University and its pattern AstraZeneca about the effectiveness of the coronavirus jab, which was found to have an overall 70 percent cover rate. The Health Secretary confirmed the Government is ready to begin vaccinations as early as December but insisted Britons might still be asked to sacrifice for months to ensure the infection rate does not spiral out of control. Speaking to the Today programme, Mr Hancock said: “If this all goes well in the next couple of weeks, then we are looking at the potential of starting the vaccination programme next month, for this Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as well as the Pfizer vaccine.

“But in all cases, the bulk of the roll-out will be in the new year and I know people are absolutely desperate to understand the timescale of this.

“Crucially, I think we’ve got to keep the virus suppressed using mass-testing and the sorts of measures and responsibilities we have for the next few months.

“But we are looking, with high confidence now, that from after Easter, things can really start to get back to normal.”

The Government confirmed 100 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine had been bought but the Health Secretary said only jabs in the low millions will be immediately available for the roll-out programme.

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Mr Hancock also warned the tiers system expected to come into effect once the England-wide lockdown comes to an end on December 2 will”have to be stronger” than before.

He said: “The number of cases is now clearly starting to fall across the whole of the UK.

“In England, we come to the end of the lockdown as you know on December 2, and so we do think that we can replace the lockdown with a tiered system.

“But the tiered system, whilst lighter than lockdown, will have to be stronger than the previous tiers that were in place.”

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Brexit LIVE: Boris Johnson issues checkmate warning to EU over deal – ‘Time is up’

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The Prime Minister remains confident a deal can be secured with talks entering their final week as civil servants start to draft EU relationship legislation. With the transition period due to end on December 31st, a deal is yet to be struck between UK and EU negotiators as fishing, governance and the level playing field remain significant stumbling blocks.

Whitehall officials are confident a deal can be secured by November 30th so draft legislation can be passed.

But the EU is remaining more cautious with any deal having to be ratified by the 27 member states before the end of December. 

Whitehall sources told Express.co.uk Boris Johnson was “optimistic” on a deal but stressed any deal “needs to strictly be” in the UK’s interests.  

One told Express.co.uk: “This week is the turning point in the talks, time is running out.

“It’s essentially a checkmate, we are laying down our requests and are not backing down.”

Talks will begin virtually today after a member of Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for COVID-19 last time and could be face to face in London as early as Thursday. 

As Express.co.uk exclusively revealed on Saturday, it is hoped draft legislation could be debated before the Commons as early as next week. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told BBC Andrew Marr yesterday the UK should not be going for a Brexit deal “at any price”,

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, indicated that there had been “better progress” towards reaching an agreement.

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8am update: IFS expresses ‘uncertainty’ over Brexit deal 

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said there was still much uncertainty about both the long and short-term impacts of a Brexit deal.

“Even the best deal we could get would have been counted as one of the hardest imaginable Brexits three or four years ago when we started to look at this,” he told the Andrew Marr show, referring to economic modelling done by the IFS.

“That sort of deal will result, at best, in the economy growing less quickly than it otherwise would have done.

“It is worth saying that, especially in the context of coronavirus, there’s just such uncertainty about what the impact is going to be, and particularly the short-term impact.”

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Brexit trade: UK set for ‘more advanced’ Canada talks to deliver ‘much more’ than EU deal

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International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has confirmed the UK and Canada have agreed to begin “more advanced” negotiations once Britain is finally freed from the shackles of the EU on January 1, 2021. On Friday, the UK finalised a post-Brexit deal with Canada to protect the flow of goods and services worth £20billion.

Boris Johnson said the extension of existing EU terms was a “fantastic agreement for Britain”.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said both would look at ways to “maximise our trade opportunities”.

The UK has now agreed trade deal with more than 50 countries around the world, worth more than £150billion.

Ms Truss said: “We have also agreed to start negotiating a more advanced trade deal next year, which will be more ambitious in areas such as digital trade, women’s economic empowerment and the environment.

“We will build on this in our presidency of the G7, working with like-minded democracies such as Canada to promote our priorities around the world.”

Writing in Sunday Telegraph, she added: “This deal will allow us to take our economic relationship to new heights.

“It also takes us a step closer to hitching ourselves to one of the most dynamic trading areas in the world.”

The International Trade Secretary added the UK would look towards joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership made up of 11 nations, including Canada, Japan and Australia.

Ms Truss explained this would give Britain access to a market which is equivalent to 13 percent of global GDP – worth around £11trillion.

In a major swipe at the EU, Ms Truss insisted “they thrive under modern, business-friendly rules which offer much more than the EU could for the industries of the future”.

She added: “Together, we would form a coalition of the willing in the fight for free and fair trade which would push back against protectionism and those who would try to subvert the world’s rules-based system.”

Over the past two years the UK has agreed deals with 53 nations worth £164billion.

Ms Truss confirmed the UK was not done yet and is working on agreements with the US, Australia and New Zealand in order to “turbocharge” industries.

She said: “We are working flat out to reach new gold-standard arrangements with the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

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“Seizing these opportunities will bring home jobs, economic growth and investment.

“This is how we will revive our industrial heartlands, turbocharge our services and take our digital trade to the next level.”

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