Saturday, 31 October, 2020

United Kingdom must prepare for ‘no deal’ Brexit, says PM Boris Johnson

Brexit discussions in Brussels Boris Johnson set for make-or-break decision on Brexit talks
Deanna Wagner | 17 October, 2020, 18:26

"As far as I can see there, they've abandoned the idea of a free trade deal, there doesn't seem to be any progress coming from Brussels", said Johnson.

The prime minister's chief negotiator Lord Frost is understood to have told Mr Barnier in a telephone conversation on Friday evening that there would be "no basis" for talks on Monday given the EU's position.

French President Emmanuel Macron said European Union leaders were united in their approach to Brexit, that they supported the continuation of talks and had tasked Barnier to pursue them for two weeks.

There is "no point" in Michel Barnier coming to London on Monday for planned Brexit talks, Downing Street has said, after Boris Johnson said negotiations were over unless Brussels adopted a "fundamental change of approach".

The 27 presidents and prime ministers had said in a joint statement that the United Kingdom would have to "make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible" - enraging the British side, who accused them of "an unusual approach to conducting a negotiation".

British sources said the trade talks are now over, but that claim was undermined by Mr Johnson himself.

"It's not the job of the leaders of the 27 countries who have chose to stay in the European Union to keep the British prime minister happy", he said.

In response to Johnson's statement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that "the EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price".

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"They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fisheries, in a way that is obviously unacceptable to an independent country", he said in a broadcast interview.

"And so with high hearts and complete confidence we will prepare to embrace the alternative", Johnson added.

"We are ready to continue to talk, in good faith, to advance, but I will also be very clear: we will not sacrifice any position, any interest and we will not sacrifice our fishermen", French President Emmanuel Macron said.

But for Johnson to be persuaded to stay at the table, negotiators had wanted to see positive signs from the bloc, including a signal it was willing to intensify negotiations - something they pointedly refused to do.

Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Mike Hawes warned it would have a "devastating impact" on the automotive sector, hitting jobs "in every region of Britain". But there is still time - just - for the two sides to clinch a deal.

Lord Rami Ranger, a peer representing Johnson's Conservative party and chairman of trading house Sun Mark Limited, was of the view: "The EU would like to make an example of Britain, so that other member states can not leave the union with impunity". In a rare Brexit intervention the German chancellor assured reporters that "we, too, will need to make compromises". Johnson had set the summit as a deadline for a deal, but is under pressure after fresh warnings that British companies are nowhere near ready for the consequences of a cliff-edge divorce when a post-Brexit transition periods ends on December 31.

He said Britain should "get ready" to operate on stripped-down World Trade Organization rules from January akin to Australia's relationship with the EU.

Brussels in turn stresses that Britain's economy is far more integrated with the EU's than Canada's, and that its single market must be protected from British backsliding. Prior to the summit, Frost was expected to advise Johnson not to abandon talks, the person said.