Boris Johnson has told German Chancellor Merkel that the UK would be willing to walk away if there was no Brexit deal in place. Johnson’s call to Merkel comes just days before a major EU summit on a post-Brexit deal .
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday to discuss “significant gaps” that remain in the deal between the UK and the EU.
According to an official statement from Johnson’s office, “the prime minister emphasized that progress must be made in the coming days to bridge the significant gaps, in particular in the areas of fisheries and the level playing field.”
Both the EU and the UK have hoped that an economic post-Brexit deal is reached by the end of October. But the UK said it was also willing to move forward without a proper plan in place. Germany has opposed a no-deal Brexit.
Last week the EU chief negotiator Barnier met with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who said that a no-deal Brexit would be “irresponsible,” particularly given the economic and health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
“With today’s health and economic challenges, people on both sides of the channel have enough to shoulder, so it would be totally irresponsible to burden them in this position with the additional problems through a no-deal,” Maas said.
Maas stressed that the EU was still open to constructive discussions with the UK. “Our door is still open for a close and ambitious partnership with Britain,” he said.
The foreign minister also said on Twitter that while the coronavirus had made negotiations more difficult “in every respect,” they had made reaching a deal more crucial, too.
The UK has made its intentions clear if its a ‘no deal’ they are prepared to walk away.
“While achieving a deal in the coming days would be beneficial for both sides, the UK was also prepared to end the transition period on Australia-style terms,” said the statement, even though there are no trade deals between Australia and the EU.
The UK said it would walk away without a deal if no deal was finalised by the EU summit in a few days time. In addition to the debate surrounding fisheries, there are still differences in opinion to the UK’s access to the EU single market. Johnson told French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday that he was exploring all avenues for a trade deal with the EU.
Boris Johnson said the European Council meeting on October 15 is the final chance to ratify a deal between the EU and the UK, making it an effective deadline for trade negotiations. The EU said that negotiations should be wrapped up by October 31 at the latest.
The UK left the EU’s political institutions on January 31, but very little about the way it trades with the bloc has changed as yet. That’s because the UK is currently in a so-called transition period, still enjoying most benefits of Single Market and Customs Union membership, which will end on December 31. If no deal is ratified by then, the UK could end the transition period without any trade agreement with the bloc.
Goldman Sachs predicts November deal
The meeting came shortly after global bank Goldman Sachs published a report on Monday morning predicting that a deal would be reached by early November, although there remained the risk of a breakdown in negotiations.
“Our core view remains that a ‘thin’ zero-tariff/zero-quota trade agreement will likely be struck by early November, and subsequently ratified by the end of December,” Goldman analysts said in a report sent to clients.
“The risk of a breakdown in negotiations cannot be ruled out,” the report added. “We continue to think the perceived probability of a ‘no deal’ will persist beyond the next European Council meeting in mid-October.”
Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke in a video conference on Saturday to discuss the “state of play” of Brexit negotiations, saying afterwards that “significant gaps remained.”
The EU launched legal action against the UK last week over British plans to break international law and go back on part of a pre-agreed treaty.
The UK politically withdrew from the European bloc earlier this year, but it will remain in the economic bloc until December 31.