Johnson sets deadline
Outrage over UK plan to over-ride Brexit agreement
Boris Johnson says no deal would still be a positive outcome
UK ministers have prompted renewed outrage over Brexit after it emerged they are are planning new legislation that would override parts of last year’s EU withdrawal agreement.
It would impact on the state aid provision and remove the requirement for new Northern Ireland customs arrangements, which are intended to prevent the return of checks at the border with the Irish Republic.
While Downing Street insisted the proposals are a fallback in the event of trade talks failing, opposition parties took aim at the plans.
Labour claimed the government is playing a “dangerous game”, while the SNP said it was clear that Boris Johnson is leading Britain to a No Deal Brexit.
The Prime Minister is expected to set a 15 October deadline when the European Council next meets, saying: “If we cannot agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us and we should accept that and move on”.
He will tell his EU counterparts that completing the UK’s exit from the bloc without a trade deal would still be “positive for the UK’.
His comments follow UK chief negotiator David Frost’s claim that the UK “will not blink first” in talks which resume this week.
Britain formally left the EU in January and is now in a transition period until the end of the year with the aim of having a trade agreement in place.
However, the Financial Times reports that plans for the internal market – designed to ensure consistent delivery of services across the UK – will tear up parts of last year’s deal.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “Boris Johnson’s reckless plans for the hardest of Brexits would be devastating for Scotland, causing lasting damage to Scottish jobs and the economy in the middle of a pandemic.
“By threatening to undermine the UK’s international treaty obligations and impose a catastrophic no-deal Brexit on Scotland against our will, the Prime Minister is proving he cannot be trusted and is underlining the need for Scotland to become an independent country.
“Scotland has been completely ignored by Westminster throughout the Brexit process. It is increasingly clear that the UK will now be leaving the EU with either a very bad deal or no deal at all – either of which would be a disaster for Scotland.
Ian Blackford: ‘disaster for Scotland’ (pic: Terry Murden)
“With the Tories hardening their Brexit plans and threatening Scotland with a power grab, it is clearer than ever that the only way to protect Scotland’s economic interests and our place in Europe is to become an independent country.”
Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary said: “These reports, if true, show what we have long feared – that the ‘oven-ready’ Brexit deal the Prime Minister promised the British people was yet another example of his fluid relationship with the truth.
“Just 10 months after signing a treaty promising to implement the Northern Ireland protocol, Boris Johnson’s government is already threatening to renege on the UK’s legal obligations.
“This would be an act of immense bad faith: one that would be viewed dimly by future trading partners and allies around the world and make it more difficult for us to hold other governments to account.
“It beggars belief that the Government is – yet again – playing a dangerous game in Northern Ireland and sacrificing our international standing at the altar of the Prime Minister’s incompetence.
“It is in the interest of all parties to reduce the burden on businesses and the economy in Northern Ireland, but these practical solutions must be agreed on the basis of trust – trust which Ministers have now jeopardised.”
FSB calls for vouchers
The Federation of Small Businesses has called for a voucher scheme to help firms cope with the transition period.
National chairman Mike Cherry said: “Given that small firms have been flat out managing coronavirus-linked disruption for the past six months, the Government needs to step in with substantial financial support to assist with transition preparations.
“Transition vouchers mark a sensible way forward: set sums that can be spent on expertise, tech and training that will ease the small business community’s move to a new relationship with the EU.”