The UK will walk away from post-Brexit trade deal talks unless ‘fundamental change’ in EU approach
Boris Johnson said the UK is ready to walk away from post-Brexit trade talks with the European Union unless there is a significant change of approach from the bloc.
In a video statement to leaders attending the European Council summit in Brussels, he said that the UK would be willing to embrace a no-deal exit at the end of the year unless the EU could offer Britain a Canada-style free trade agreement.
“Of course, we’re willing to discuss the practicalities with our friends where a lot of progress has already been made, by the way on such issues as social security, aviation, nuclear co-operation and so on,” Johnson said.
“But for whatever reason, it is clear from the summit that, after 45 years of membership, they are not willing, unless there is some fundamental change of approach, to offer this country the same terms as Canada.”
Speaking at the summit on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Johnson to stay at the negotiating table, saying both sides needed to find common ground as the troubled talks look set to wind down.
The EU had proposed extending talks by a further two to three weeks but in a statement on Thursday, the EU Council President Charles Michel said it was up to the UK to “make the necessary moves” to make an agreement possible.
“On Brexit, we are united and determined to reach an agreement. But not at any cost,” he said.
“Any agreement on our future relationship would have to be based on our mandate, in particular when it comes to the level playing field, fisheries and governance.
“On those issues, we are concerned by the lack of progress at the negotiation table. We are 100 per cent united. And we fully trust and support our chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, to continue negotiations. And we call on the UK to make the necessary moves.”
Michel added that EU negotiator Michel Barnier, who is due to visit London on Monday, would carry on negotiations with the bloc stepping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
“As regards the Withdrawal Agreement and its Protocols, they must be fully implemented. Full stop. And that’s also a question of international credibility for the UK.
“In parallel, we will step up our work, at all levels and for all outcomes, including that of a no-deal.”
In draft conclusions prepared ahead of the summit called on talks with the UK to be continued “intensively” but was changed in the official version agreed on Thursday to just “continue negotiations.
The change in language used in the official EU communiqué had been noted by lead UK Brexit negotiator David Frost who said in a post on Twitter on Thursday that “disappointed” and “surprised” by the EU’s amended approach.
Lord Frost of Allenton the EU adviser to the Prime Minister tweeted:
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen added: “The EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price. As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations.
🇪🇺-🇬🇧 talks: the EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price.— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) October 16, 2020
As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations.
“As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations.”
The neoliberal think tank the Adam Smith Institute suggested the statement was posturing.Deputy Director Matt Kilcoyne said:”The Prime Minister has done his very best Theresa May impression today in announcing that nothing has changed, and that Brexit talks will continue past the artificial deadline the UK imposed and will likely continue past the artificial deadline the EU has imposed at the end of the month too.