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Andrea Leadsom: 'UK won't know if EU free trade deal possible until end of 2020'

The United Kingdom "won't know for sure" if a free trade deal with Brussels is possible until the end of 2020, the business minister has said.

Andrea Leadsom told ITV's Peston programme: "We have to leave the European Union. We have to deliver on it. The fact is we are determined.

"I’m absolutely confident we will get that free trade deal done by the end of 2020. Until we reach the end of 2020 we won’t know for sure."

Mrs Leadsom went on to elaborate on the "30 plus page political declaration that sets out that template for that deal," which she says ensures the UK has "a firm commitment from the European Union to signing a deal by the end of 2020."

She believes a change in the parliamentary arithmetic, achieved through a general election, will help ease the passage of a swift exit from the European Union and "get that good deal that will work for the UK and for the European Union."

'Always more to do' on flooding, says minister

Fishlake has been deluged with floodwaters in recent days. Credit: PA

The former environment minister batted away criticism of the Government's handling of flooding in the north of England.

Leaping to the defence of Westminster spending on flood protection systems, Mrs Leadsom said: "There’s a huge amount of investment going into flood defences.

"I think the Environment Agency, I think I’m right in saying that they believe that flood defences have protected a further 13,000 properties from floods."

But she conceded: "There is always more to do."

Millions of pounds worth of damage has been caused to homes in villages like Fishlake, on the outskirts of Doncaster after local rivers burst their banks.

Some have pointed the blame at new flood prevention schemes in Sheffield, which they claim have in effect washed the problem away from the city's suburbs and into the living rooms and kitchens of those living on its outskirts.

Earlier on Wednesday, the prime minister was accused of doing nothing to help as he visited flood-hit communities in South Yorkshire.

Labour has said it will deliver an extra £5.6 billion in flood prevention funding to level up defences over the course of a decade, should it be elected on December 12.