UK will approach no-deal with ‘confidence’
THE Prime Minister warned Britain would “embrace” a no- deal Brexit unless there was a “f undamental change” in the European Union’s approach to trade negotiations.
Boris Johnson said that unless the EU moved on its red lines of fishing and level playing field guarantees, the UK would trade on WTO terms, with tariffs and quotas, from Jan 1.
“With high hearts and complete confidence, we will prepare to embrace the alternative and we will prosper mightily as an independent free trading nation controlling our own borders, our fisheries and setting our own laws,” he said.
But he did not rule out further negotiations despite missing his Thursday deadline – the first day of the EU summit in Brussels – for an agreement “to be in sight”. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said there was “no point” in Michel Barnier, the EU’S chief negotiator, coming to London for talks next week unless Brussels changed its position.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said after the second day of the European Council meeting that an agreement was possible and suggested French fishermen could pay for continued access to UK waters. He conceded they would not have the same access as before Brexit.
Angela Merkel said negotiators could find a mechanism enabling both sides to “react quickly” to changes in subsidy laws, in a sign Brussels was looking to manage any divergence rather than
forbid it outright. In a joint summit statement on Thursday, the EU dropped a call for “intensified negotiations” and called on the UK to “move” on fishing, the level playing field guarantees and the enforcement of the deal.
Mr Johnson 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. So, what we are saying to them is, ‘ Come here, come to us if there is some fundamental change of approach’.”
After accusing the EU of seeking to keep control of UK legislation and fishing waters, failing to negotiate “seriously”, and rejecting the British request for a Canada-style deal, he called on British businesses to prepare for no deal.
EU leaders said they expected trade talks to continue until the bloc’s deadline of the end of October.
Mr Macron said he would not sacrifice his fishermen: “We need compromise on access, but we know it will come with conditions. Perhaps we will have to pay for it. If there is no deal, European fishermen will have no access to British waters whatsoever. That is the reality.”
He demanded a long-term agreement on fishing opportunities rather than the annual negotiations the British want.
Mrs Merkel, the German Chancellor, said: “We also need to be ready to compromise. If we want an agreement, then both sides need to make a move.”
Mark Rutte, the Netherlands’ prime minister, said: “I look with a positive sense to Boris Johnson’s reaction now that he is implicitly stating that he also now wants the talks to continue.”
But Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “The trade talks are over, the EU have effectively ended them. Only come to London next week if you are prepared to discuss all issues, without the UK making all the moves.” Sources said the PM’S intention was always to “play hard ball”. A senior Tory said: “Boris has looked weak on Covid; there’s no way he can look weak on Brexit or he’s finished.”