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EU's Barnier says significant differences persist in Brexit talks


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator said on Thursday that "significant divergences" persisted in its talks with Britain on their new relationship from 2021.

Britain left the EU in January and is in a standstill transition period with the bloc - remaining in its single market and customs union until year-end - to give the two sides time to forge a new relationship on everything from trade to security.

Negotiations have so far failed to bridge gaps over fisheries and fair competition guarantees, among other issues, and Barnier said after the latest talks in London:

"This week's discussions confirm that significant divergences remain between the EU and the UK. We will continue working with patience, respect and determination."

Negotiators meet again in Brussels next week but the bloc's executive European Commission said there will be changes from 2021 in trade in goods and services, energy and legal cooperation, travel and tourism regardless of whether there is a new deal, or not.

"The fact that the United Kingdom will no longer participate in Union policies as of the end of the transition period will create barriers to trade in goods and services and to cross-border mobility and exchanges that do not exist today," the Commission said in a note.

"These inevitable disruptions will occur as of 1 January 2021 and risk compounding the pressure that businesses are already under due to the COVID-19 outbreak."

The Commission urged countries, companies and individuals to prepare for more elaborate customs formalities for goods crossing between Britain and the bloc, more thorough procedures to recognise transport licences or professional qualifications, as well as tighter checks on travellers, among other aspects. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/brexit_files/info_site/com_2020_324_2_communication_from_commission_to_inst_en_0.pdf

(Reporting by Marine Strauss; Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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