The Daily Telegraph

UK seeks to blame EU for Brexit deal failure

- By Gordon Rayner Political editor

BRITAIN’S chief Brexit negotiator will offer to hold an emergency round of talks next week as the UK tries to avoid blame for any failure to agree a trade deal. Formal talks in London between David Frost and the EU’S Michel Barnier will end today, with neither side believing the current deadlock will be broken this week.

The Daily Telegraph has revealed that the Government’s working assumption is now that Britain will have no trade deal in place when the transition period ends on Dec 31, but Downing Street said yesterday the talks were not yet at “breakdown”.

Boris Johnson had set a deadline of the end of July for an outline agreement to be reached, and Mr Frost is expected to make himself available to continue one-to-one talks with Mr Barnier next week to ensure everything has been done to meet the target.

With neither side currently prepared to give ground on key issues, including fishing rights and the jurisdicti­on of the European Court of Justice, No10 wants to show that if the talks collapse it will be the EU’S fault.

A source close to the negotiatio­ns said: “If an agreement isn’t reached this week, it’s likely that David Frost will offer more face-to face-talks next week on an informal basis. Then we would expect there to be more talks in the third week of August.” Michel Barnier is expected to go on holiday for the first half of August. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We remain committed to working hard to find the outlines of a balanced agreement.

“Significan­t difference­s remain and our preference is to leave with a freetrade agreement, but we need to be prepared for all scenarios. We are nei- ther at breakthrou­gh nor breakdown.”

On Tuesday, The Telegraph reported that ministers now believe the most likely scenario is Britain trading with the EU on World Trade Organisati­on terms at the end of the current arrangemen­ts – which are effectivel­y a continuati­on of Britain’s membership of the single market.

A deadline for extending the transition period has now passed, meaning the transition period will end on Dec 31 regardless of whether a trade deal is reached. The EU believes it has until October to thrash out a possible trade deal with Britain, but that would give the UK only a matter of weeks to prepare for a new trading regime.

The Government has already launched a public informatio­n campaign telling businesses to get ready now for an exit on WTO terms.

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