Pre­pare for no deal on 1 Jan­uary, warns No 10

The Guardian - - Front Page - Lisa O’Car­roll Peter Walker Sev­erin Car­rell

The prime min­is­ter claimed yes­ter­day that there would be no more trade and se­cu­rity talks un­less the EU adopted a “fun­da­men­tal change of ap­proach”, as he sought to in­crease pres­sure on Brussels to give ground in the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

In a dra­matic tele­vised state­ment, Boris John­son warned the UK would have to pre­pare for a no-deal sce­nario on 1 Jan­uary, with his spokesman fur­ther tough­en­ing up the rhetoric later in the day.

“The trade talks are over – the EU have ef­fec­tively ended them yes­ter­day when they said they did not want to change their

ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion,” the spokesman said, while stop­ping short of an­nounc­ing the UK’s in­ten­tion to de­ci­sively walk away.

But Down­ing Street’s bravado was swiftly un­der­mined in Brussels, where of­fi­cials and lead­ers leav­ing an EU sum­mit said they had no rea­son to be­lieve the ne­go­ti­a­tions would not con­tinue.

The Euro­pean com­mis­sion pres­i­dent, Ur­sula von der Leyen, tweeted: “The EU con­tin­ues to work for a deal, but not at any price. As planned, our ne­go­ti­a­tion team will go to Lon­don next week to in­ten­sify these ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

The olive branch was quickly re­buffed by Down­ing Street with the UK chief ne­go­tia­tor, David Frost, telling his EU coun­ter­part, Michel Barnier, in a phone call yes­ter­day af­ter­noon that there was no need to come to Lon­don on Mon­day.

A Down­ing Street spokesman said Lord Frost had told him there was “no ba­sis for ne­go­ti­a­tions in Lon­don as of

Mon­day” un­less the EU came up with a new plan over the week­end.

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime min­is­ter, sug­gested John­son’s call for in­ten­sive talks and com­pro­mise, both of which he said were on of­fer, was sim­ply an in­vi­ta­tion to con­tinue with the ne­go­ti­a­tions, de­spite John­son’s claim that this sum­mit had been his dead­line for a deal. He 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.”

Ger­many’s chan­cel­lor, An­gela Merkel, said: “We in­tend to fo­cus on the ne­go­ti­a­tions and these ne­go­ti­a­tions will con­tinue in the next few days.”

In his state­ment, John­son said that with only 10 weeks left un­til the Brexit tran­si­tion pe­riod ended, he had to make a judg­ment about the likely out­come and to pre­pare the coun­try.

“A lot of progress has been made on such is­sues as so­cial se­cu­rity and avi­a­tion, nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion, and so on,” he said, but “for what­ever rea­son, it’s clear from the [EU] sum­mit that af­ter 45 years of [UK] mem­ber­ship they are not will­ing, un­less there’s some fun­da­men­tal change of ap­proach, to of­fer this coun­try the same terms as Canada”.

“I con­cluded that we should get ready for 1 Jan­uary with ar­range­ments that are more like Aus­tralia’s – based on sim­ple prin­ci­ples of global free trade,” he told re­porters in the pooled broad­cast state­ment.

John­son’s spokesman later said there was “only any point in Michel Barnier com­ing to Lon­don next week” if he un­der­took talks on the ba­sis set out by John­son, dis­cussing all ar­eas of con­tention and work­ing on le­gal text.

But such a change in ap­proach was al­ready ev­i­dent yes­ter­day, fol­low­ing a two-hour dis­cus­sion by EU lead­ers the pre­vi­ous day on the bloc’s flex­i­bil­ity, dur­ing which they were made to hand over their tablets and phones to avoid leaks.

Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron of France ac­cused No 10 of us­ing fish­eries tac­ti­cally and in­sisted it was not his job to make the Bri­tish prime min­is­ter “happy”, but he con­ceded that the post-Brexit ar­range­ments for Bri­tish seas would not main­tain the sta­tus quo for the EU fish­ing fleet.

“If there is a deal, it must al­low us to de­fine the modal­i­ties of ac­cess for our fish­er­men to Bri­tish wa­ters,” he said. “Will the sit­u­a­tion be the same as it is today? No, it will not, that’s for sure. Our fish­er­men know it. We know that too. We are go­ing to help them.

“We need to have a com­pro­mise on ac­cess, but we know it will not be of the same na­ture. It won’t be as am­bi­tious. It will come with con­di­tions, per­haps we will have to pay for it.”

Merkel said the EU should find a way to ac­com­mo­date the UK’s wish to di­verge from the EU rule book, while en­sur­ing fair com­pe­ti­tion.

“If we want to have an agree­ment, then both sides need to make a move to­wards each other,” she said. “We need to re­act quickly. We can’t mu­tu­ally rule out that each of us has dif­fer­ent rules to a cer­tain ex­tent.”

Rutte later said of his fel­low lead­ers’ com­ments: “The pos­i­tive of the last two days is the EU has, by im­pli­ca­tion, sig­nalled we’re ready to com­pro­mise, which has al­ways been our po­si­tion.

“We will not get 100% of what we want, that’s im­pos­si­ble in a ne­go­ti­a­tion, you al­ways have to find com­pro­mise, you al­ways have to find ways within the man­date Michel Barnier has re­ceived from the Euro­pean coun­cil … He is a skilled ne­go­tia­tor, he will be able to ex­plore where within the man­date there is room for com­pro­mise and that room is there.”

The fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try ex­pressed its deep dis­ap­point­ment at the “po­lit­i­cal game of chicken” over Brexit.

Cather­ine McGuin­ness, the pol­icy chair at the City of Lon­don Cor­po­ra­tion, said that busi­nesses and house­holds on both sides of the Chan­nel “stand to be the main losers”.

‘We should get ready for 1 Jan­uary with ar­range­ments more like Aus­tralia’s – based on prin­ci­ples of global free trade’

Boris John­son Speak­ing yes­ter­day

PHO­TO­GRAPH: THIERRY MONASSE/GETTY

▲ Em­manuel Macron, cen­tre, at the Brussels sum­mit. He said it was not his job to make Boris John­son happy

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