Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator warns EU that Britain will not become a ‘client state’ of Brussels on the eve of crunch talks to avoid a No Deal Brexit
- Lord Frost warned Michel Barnier that the UK would not become a ‘client state’
- He said EU needs to realise PM’s Government is adopting more steely approach
- Comments come ahead of Barnier’s arrival in London for a fresh round of talks
In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Lord Frost warned his EU counterpart Michel Barnier the UK would not become a ‘client state’ of Brussels by accepting restrictions on fishing rights and vetos of our laws.
His comments come ahead of Mr Barnier’s arrival in London for a fresh round of talks on Tuesday. The two sides have just weeks to finalise any legally binding agreement that needs to be in force by December 31 if a No Deal Brexit is to be avoided.
In the interview – his first since being appointed in January – Lord Frost said the EU needed to realise that Mr Johnson’s Government was adopting a more steely and determined approach than Theresa May’s.
Britain will not ‘blink’ in crunch Brexit talks this week, Boris Johnson’s chief negotiator, pictured, has declared, in a marked ratcheting up of pressure on Brussels
He said: ‘We came in after a Government and negotiating team that had blinked and had its bluff called at critical moments and the EU had learned not to take our word seriously.
‘So a lot of what we are trying to do this year is to get them to realise that we mean what we say and they should take our position seriously.’
To demonstrate the Government’s readiness to accept No Deal, the Prime Minister has created a No 10 Transition Hub, with officials across key departments said to be ‘working at pace’ to prepare to trade without arrangements in place. The unit, boasting ‘handpicked’ officials from across Whitehall, will work with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who has led the Government’s work on No Deal preparations since last year.
Lord Frost said the EU ‘have not accepted that in key areas of our national life we want to be able to control our own laws and do things our way and use the freedoms that come after Brexit’.
‘We are not going to be a client state. We are not going to compromise on the fundamentals of having control over our own laws.
‘We are not going to accept level playing field provisions that lock us in to the way the EU do things; we are not going to accept provisions that give them control over our money or the way we can organise things here in the UK and that should not be controversial – that’s what being an independent country is about, that’s what the British people voted for and that’s what will happen at the end of the year, come what may.’
The bullish Brexit rhetoric is part of an attempt by Mr Johnson’s No 10 to ‘re-grip the agenda’ after a chaotic summer marked by an endless series of U-turns on issues such as Covid policy and A-level exam grades, with Tory backbenchers expressing growing disquiet over the professionalism of the Prime Minister’s Downing Street operation.
Meanwhile, in another febrile day in politics:
- Mr Johnson tried to face down continuing criticism over the lack of Covid testing at UK borders by considering replacing the economically ruinous 14-day quarantine period with tests after eight days;
- As the UK recorded 1,813 new coronavirus infections yesterday, and 12 more deaths, Public Health England figures showed that the highest case rates were among 15- to 44-year-olds, with young working adults aged between 20 and 29 most likely to be affected;
- Mr Johnson’s drive to encourage workers to return to the office was undermined by this newspaper’s discovery that the Civil Service is advertising new jobs as ‘work from home’ positions;
- The Prime Minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned environmental protesters who blockaded newspaper printing presses as ‘completely unacceptable’, and asked advisers to draw up tougher laws to deal with the action by the Extinction Rebellion group;
- Hundreds of anti-immigration protesters clashed with police in Dover after a record 409 desperate asylum seekers crossed the Channel in one day.
This week’s Brexit talks – the eighth round – mark the final phase of the negotiations, with Lord Frost’s team calling for ‘more realism’ from the EU side to break the deadlock.
Mr Barnier’s refusal to countenance an increase in the amount of fish the UK can take from its own waters, combined with an insistence on a Brussels veto over taxpayer support for businesses, have made a No Deal exit more likely that a deal, according to Government sources. One blamed the EU’s ‘self-imposed doctrine of parallelism’ and a ‘refusal to settle the simplest issues first, despite our willingness to up the pace and get into the detailed discussions of legal texts. The source added: ‘We hope this week to see more ambition from the EU.’
A source close to the negotiations said: ‘We intensified the talks in July in order to reach a broad outline of an agreement this summer. Due to the EU’s repeated refusal to accept that in key areas we need to do things in our own way, reflecting our new status as a sovereign, independent country, those difficult discussions are ongoing. We now face a critical round of negotiations.
‘The EU must also realise that we are serious about leaving with an Australian-style trading relationship and reclaiming our independence as a sovereign nation if we cannot find acceptable terms.
‘The whole Government has been extensively preparing to ensure that businesses and citizens are ready for the end of the transition period in any scenario. Outside the customs union, outside the single market and outside the EU.’
Lord Frost said: ‘Obviously, lots of preparation was done last year, we are ramping up again and have been for some time under Michael Gove’s authority.
‘I don’t think that we are scared of this at all.
‘We want to get back the powers to control our borders and that is the most important thing.
‘If we can reach an agreement that regulates trade like Canada’s, great. If we can’t, it will be an Australian-like trading agreement and we are fully ready for that.’
Mrs May was not available for comment last night.