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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a news conference about the ongoing situation with the coronavirus pandemic, inside 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, Dec. 16, 2020.

POOL/The Associated Press

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said on Thursday that trade talks with the European Union were in a “serious situation” and that no agreement would be reached unless the bloc changed its position substantially.

During a call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Johnson said “time was very short and it now looked very likely that agreement would not be reached unless the EU position changed substantially”, his office said in a statement.

“The prime minister underlined that the negotiations were now in a serious situation.”

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Johnson said Britain had tried to accommodate the EU’s “reasonable” requests on the so-called level playing field, but although the gap had narrowed, fundamental differences remained.

He said on fisheries, another major sticking point, Britain could not “accept a situation where it was the only sovereign country in the world not to be able to control access to its own waters for an extended period” nor quotas which harmed its own fishing industry.

“The EU’s position in this area was simply not reasonable and if there was to be an agreement it needed to shift significantly,” the statement said.

“The prime minister repeated that little time was left. He said that, if no agreement could be reached, the U.K. and the EU would part as friends, with the U.K. trading with the EU on Australian-style terms.”

Australia does not have a free trade agreement with the EU and the bulk of their trade is on World Trade Organization terms.

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