Boris Johnson lays down the gauntlet to the EU as he tells Brussels it must ‘come to us’ and compromise if there is to be a free trade deal as the PM says Britain will now step up preparations for a no deal split in January
- Boris Johnson said EU must ‘come to us’ and compromise for a deal to be done
- He said Brussels appeared to have ‘abandoned the idea of a free trade deal’
- As a result he said the UK will now step up its preparations for a no deal split
- EU agreed yesterday that talks should continue but said UK must give ground
- Both sides now locked in game of brinkmanship as transition period nears its end
Boris Johnson today laid down the gauntlet to the EU and told Brussels it must ‘come to us’ and compromise if there is to be a trade deal as he warned the UK will now step up its preparations for a disorderly divorce.
The Prime Minister said the bloc seemed to have ‘abandoned the idea of a free trade deal’ and as a result Britain ‘should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s’.
However, he stopped short of formally walking away from talks as he said the UK was willing to listen if the EU comes forward with a ‘fundamental change of approach’.
Mr Johnson had set yesterday’s meeting of the European Council as his deadline for the broad terms of a deal to be agreed.
But negotiations remain locked in stalemate in a number of key areas, including on post-Brexit fishing rights, as EU leaders last night refused to budge and said it is for the UK to make the next move if an agreement is to be struck.
Boris Johnson today told the EU to ‘come to us’ when it ready to compromise on the terms of a post-Brexit trade deal as he said the UK will now step up preparations for a disorderly split
EU leaders yesterday said they wanted talks to continue with the UK but insisted Britain must make the next move if there is to be a deal. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appeared to mock Mr Johnson’s summit deadline as he said: ‘Britain has already imposed so many deadlines that came and went.’
Mr Johnson suggested last month that both sides should walk away from the talks and prepare for a no deal divorce if there was no agreement by the summit on October 15.
EU leaders declined to bow to the deadline as they last night signalled their willingness for discussions to continue but gave no ground.
In a text adopted by the leaders on the day of the PM’s deadline, they ‘invited’ the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier to continue talks while urging the UK to ‘make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible’.
Mr Johnson delivered a hardline response to the bloc this afternoon and said the UK will now step up its efforts to prepare for a no deal split as he also kept the door open to talks continuing if the EU changes tack.
He said: ‘As far as I can see they have abandoned the idea of a free trade deal. There doesn’t seem to be any progress coming from Brussels.
‘What we are saying to them is only come here, come to us, if there is some fundamental change of approach, otherwise we are more than happy to talk about the practicalities that I described, the social security issues, road haulage and so on.
‘But unless there is a fundamental change of approach we are going to go for the Australia solution and we should do it with great confidence, high hearts, confidence, because we can do it.’
Australia has no comprehensive trade deal with the EU but it also does far less business with Brussels than the UK.
A no deal split would see the EU impose tariffs on UK goods, with business groups warning this would damage British firms at a time when they can least afford it because of the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Johnson said what the EU wanted the UK to agree to in key negotiating areas was ‘completely unacceptable’.
‘From the outset we were totally clear that we wanted nothing more complicated than a Canada-style relationship based on friendship and free trade,’ he said.
‘To judge by the latest EU summit in Brussels, that won’t work for our EU partners.
‘They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fisheries, in a way that is completely unacceptable to an independent country.
‘And since we have only 10 weeks until the end of the transition period on January 1 I have to make a judgement about the likely outcome and to get us all ready.
‘Given that they have refused to negotiate seriously for much of the last few months and given that this summit appears explicitly to rule out a Canada-style deal I have concluded that we should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s, based on simple principles of global free trade.’
Mr Johnson’s comments represented a significant toughening of the UK’s stance after Lord Frost branded the response agreed by Brussels last night as ‘unusual’.
He tweeted: ‘Disappointed by the European Council conclusions on UK/EU negotiations.
‘(I’m) surprised the EU is no longer committed to working “intensively” to reach a future partnership as agreed with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on October 3.
‘Also surprised by the suggestion that to get an agreement all future moves must come from the UK. It’s an unusual approach to conducting a negotiation.’
In a call with Ms von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel on the eve of the summit, Mr Johnson expressed ‘disappointment’ that the talks had not made more progress.
However, there remains scepticism in Brussels that Mr Johnson will actually deliver on his threat to pull the plug on the negotiations.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte appeared to mock his counterpart yesterday as he said: ‘Britain has already imposed so many deadlines that came and went.’
Meanwhile, Mr Michel told a press conference that Brussels would decide in the coming days, based on the UK’s next proposals, whether a deal is possible.
‘We are clear that we are determined to negotiate, we are determined to reach an agreement but we know there are some difficult topics,’ he said.
‘It is the case for fisheries, certainly, and also for level playing field and also governance.
Emmanuel Macron said he will not allow French fishermen to be ‘sacrificed to Brexit’ as he stuck to his negotiating red line on access to UK waters
This map shows the extent of the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone – the waters Britain will take back control of after Brexit. At the moment the EEZ of every EU member state is merged into one large zone which can be accessed by fishermen from all over Europe.
Why the complex issue of UK-EU fishing rights is leaving Brexit talks floundering in cold water
Each country has an Exclusive Economic Zone which can extend up to 200 nautical miles from the coast.
That country has special fishing rights over that area.
However, in the EU each country’s Exclusive Economic Zone is effectively merged into one joint EU zone.
All fishing activity within that zone is then regulated by the bloc’s controversial Common Fisheries Policy which dictates how many of each type of fish can be caught.
The joint EU zone is open to fishermen from every member state.
But after the Brexit transition period the UK will regain sole control of its Exclusive Economic Zone and will be able to decide which countries can fish there and how much they can catch.
‘We are united and we will make an assessment in the next days, we will see if it is possible to complete a negotiation, what will be the country’s (the UK’s) proposal and based on that we will make an assessment.’
Both sides want a deal to be agreed before the winter in order to allow time for it to be ratified and implemented before the end of the transition period.
Should no agreement be struck then the UK will trade with the bloc on World Trade Organisation terms from January 2021.
The Government has repeatedly described this approach as an Australia-style arrangement but critics insist that is just a nicer way of saying there will be no trade deal.
The UK and the EU have acknowledged that the question of post-Brexit fishing rights remains among the most difficult issues to be resolved.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who is under pressure from fishermen in his country who fear losing access to British waters, yesterday stuck to his hardline on the issue.
‘Under any circumstance, our fishermen should not be sacrificed for Brexit,’ he said.
‘If these conditions are not met, it’s possible we won’t have a deal. If the right terms can’t be found at the end of these discussions, we’re ready for a no-deal for our future relations.’
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today urged the EU to show more ‘flexibility’.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There’s a deal to be done, but there needs to be flexibility on both sides, energy and goodwill and political will on both sides, and the Prime Minister will say more (today).’
He said the Government was ‘surprised by the attitude and the disposition’ of the European Council.
He added: ‘I’m surprised and disappointed by the lack of flexibility and will that at least seems to have come out of the European Council.’