UK poised for no-deal Brexit as No 10 says ‘talks over’
Boris Johnson: no point in further discussions
Britain looks almost certain to crash out of the EU without a deal after Downing Street declared that talks over a post-Brexit trade agreement are “over”.
No 10 said that unless the EU was prepared to discuss the detailed legal text of a partnership there was “no point” in discussions continuing next week.
France’s president Emmanuel Macron said EU said the EU remains willing to do a deal, but “not at any price”.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier due in London next week for further discussions.
Michel Barnier: due in London next week
Downing Street said his trip would be pointless unless the EU shifted its position and Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had to “get ready” to trade with the EU next year without an agreement.
Mr Johnson said the UK’s preferred option was a comprehensive free trade agreement based on the bloc’s existing arrangement with Canada.
But in the absence of EU approval, the UK must look at the “alternative” – which he suggested was Australia’s much-more limited set of agreements with the EU.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “There is only any point in Michel Barnier coming to London next week if he’s prepared to address all the issues on the basis of a legal text in an accelerated way, without the UK required to make all the moves or to discuss the practicalities of travel and haulage. If not, there is no point in coming.
He added: “Trade talks are over. The EU have effectively ended them by saying they do not want to change their negotiating position.”
German chancellor Angela Merkel said both sides would have to make concessions and France’s president Emmanuel Macron said the UK needed a deal more than the EU, and denied fishing rights was the main stumbling block.
“There are no divisions,” Mr Macron said. “We are ready for a deal, but not at any price.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she feels “deeply frustrated and depressed” by the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
She said: “Being realistic, any deal that is struck right now is going to be such a bare minimum deal that there is going to be disruption.”
She added: “Make no mistake, resources are finite and every civil servant or every hour of my time that has to be spent right now thinking about the implications of a no-deal Brexit or a bare minimum deal Brexit is a civil servant or an hour of my time that is not focused, as it should be, on trying to steer the country through the Covid pandemic.
“The prime minister must withdraw his threat to force the hardest possible Brexit on Scotland.”
The Lib Dems’ Brexit spokesperson and Edinburgh West MP Christine Jardine said: “Boris Johnson’s handling of Brexit has been disastrous and these reckless comments are just further evidence of the prime minister’s incompetence.”
Naomi Smith, the chief executive of the Best for Britain campaign against a no-deal Brexit, said: “The EU has signalled its desire to carry on talks. Walking away now would be a hideous gamble with the country’s future.”