EU-UK deal more important that ever says Italy

EU-UK deal more important that ever says Italy

The ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic make it even more important for the European Union to clinch a deal with Britain before 31 December when the transition period following its exit from the bloc ends, Italy's premier Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday.

"I believe that an ambitious accord is now more important than ever, seeing how badly the (coronavirus) pandemic has hit the EU and the UK, Conte told lawmakers in a briefing on the upcoming European summit on 19 June.

"Italy continues to back chief negotiator Michel Barnier above all to safeguard our citizens and businesses, with the goal of reaching a deal by the year's end that reflects the depth of relations and the level of trade between the EU and the UK," Conte stated.

Britain and the European Union have said they will intensify negotiations on reaching a comprehensive agreement on the terms of their future relationship.

Britain's premier Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed on Monday not to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year.

Johnson told reporters after the meeting that the UK and the EU were not too far apart but also called for an acceleration in the negotiations.

He said he believed a deal could be agreed in July "with a bit of oomph", adding that he didn't want talks to go on until autumn or winter.