UK firms urged to get ready for "new start" regardless of EU-UK trade talks outcome

LONDON, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- British Business Secretary Alok Sharma on Sunday urged firms to prepare for the end of Brexit transition period due on Dec. 31, 2020, regardless of the outcome of the country's negotiations with the European Union (EU).

"With just 81 days until the end of the transition period, businesses must act now to ensure they are ready for the UK's new start come January," said the secretary, asserting that "there will be no extension to the transition period, so there is no time to waste."

The secretary will write a letter to more than 600,000 firms across the country on Monday, the British Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said in a statement.

Businesses will face a set of changes as Britain leaves "the Customs Union and Single Market" of the regional bloc, including "the way businesses import and export goods, the process for hiring people from the EU, and the way businesses provide services in EU markets," said the statement.

"The vast majority of these actions will need to be completed regardless of the outcome of our negotiations with the EU," it added.

To ensure firms are prepared, the government will host a series of sector-specific webinars throughout October to help businesses to learn more details.

"I urge all businesses across the country to check to see what action they need to take, sign up for updates, or attend one of our sector-specific webinars," said Sharma.

Britain and the EU are proceeding to make a post-Brexit trade deal by an Oct. 15 deadline, but significant gaps remain in fisheries and the level playing field.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday held a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron as the clock ticks toward the deadline for a Brexit deal.

Both leaders have said an agreement needs to be struck in October to ensure there is enough time for ratification.

Johnson told Mr Macron he would "explore every avenue" to secure a deal, but was prepared to leave the Brexit transition period at the end of the year on Australian-style terms with Brussels if necessary.

The Australia-style arrangement is an euphemism for failure to reach a free trade agreement with the EU, which means Britain-EU trade will fall back on World Trade Organization rules in 2021.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Macron also discussed the coronavirus crisis in their bilateral discussions as a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections was reported in their countries, local media reported.

The discussion took place at a time when Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines to check the spread of the virus in the world.

British chief negotiator, David Frost, and his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, are expected to meet again in Brexit talks on Monday after their Friday meetings in London. The EU will have a summit on Thursday.

Britain and the EU started their lengthy and bumpy post-Brexit talks in March after Britain ended its EU membership on Jan. 31, trying to secure a future trade deal before the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the year.

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