Boris Johnson: ‘Strong possibility’ there will be no Brexit trade deal

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Boris Johnson says; the UK Cabinet is united in its view that the EU’s proposed deal isn’t right.

A showdown between Mr Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday failed to break the deadlock.

Both leaders have set Sunday as the deadline to decide if talks should fold or continue.

Johnson identified the two major remaining issues as fishing and the EU’s bid to get the UK to sign up to its business competition demands known as the “level playing field”.

Earlier, Ms von der Leyen said: “We are willing to grant access to the single market to our British friends – it’s the largest single market in the world – but the conditions have to be fair.

“They have to be fair for our workers and for our companies and this fine balance of fairness has not been achieved so far.”

The UK left the EU on 31 January but has continued to follow most of the bloc’s rules to give negotiators time to try and strike a trade deal while limiting disruption for businesses and travellers.

The U.K. Cabinet strongly feel the EU’s proposed trade deal is not one Britain can accept, the British prime minister said Thursday.

In a TV clip, Boris Johnson said there is now a “strong possibility” that the U.K. and the EU will trade on World Trade Organization terms from January 1, 2021, rather than agreeing a free-trade agreement.

“I do think we need to be very, very clear, there is now a strong possibility — a strong possibility — that we will have a solution that is much more like an Australian relationship with the EU than a Canadian relationship with the EU,” he said.

The clip was released shortly after a meeting of his Cabinet this evening, in which Johnson told ministers it was time for the U.K. to prepare for a no-deal outcome. He said Cabinet agreed “very strongly” with him that “the deal on the table is really not at the moment right for the U.K.”

Earlier, the European Commission released contingency measures for fisheries and transport from January 1, amid concern time for a deal is running out and the EU must prepare for all scenarios.

Johnson argued the EU had brought back the idea the U.K. would match the EU’s rules and standards, which Britain cannot sign up to. The EU feels this is necessary to ensure post-Brexit Britain will not undercut the single market.

“And it was put to me that this was kind of, a bit like twins. The U.K. is one twin, the EU is another, and if the EU decides to have a haircut, then the U.K. has got to have a haircut or else face punishment,” Johnson said.

“Or if the EU decides to buy an expensive handbag, then the U.K. has to buy an expensive handbag too or else face tariffs … Clearly, that is not the sensible way to proceed and it’s unlike any other free-trade deal. It’s a way of keeping the U.K. kind of locked in the EU’s orbit, in their regulatory orbit,” he added.

The prime minister said he has instructed the U.K. negotiators to keep trying to reach common ground with the EU, adding that he is willing to travel to Brussels, Paris and Berlin in his pursuit of a trade deal with the bloc, but Downing Street confirmed no meetings with EU leaders are booked to date.

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