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Brexit talks

Johnson: EU must ‘change position substantially’

Boris Johnson says EU is being ‘unreasonable’ (pic: Downing St)

Boris Johnson was again playing hard ball on the Brexit negotiations tonight, warning that there would be no deal unless the EU position “changed substantially”.

The Prime Minister said the EU continued to make “unreasonable” demands over fishing rights and in a 7pm phone call he warned EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, that the talks were in a “serious situation”.

Downing Street insisted that if agreement could not be reached the UK would be leaving the EU “as friends”, but trading on Australia-style terms.

However, a more conciliatory tone was struck by Ms von der Leyenwho said “substantial progress” had been made on a Brexit deal, even though “big differences” remain that will be “challenging to bridge”.

Mr Johnson is said to be keen to compromise on the EU’s requests for assurances that the UK will not undercut businesses on the continent by rolling out lower environmental standards and regulations – the level playing field.

But he shared the view expressed earlier by Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove that “the chances are more likely that we won’t secure an agreement”.

European Parliament chiefs are demanding a final deadline on talks this weekend otherwise there would be no time for scrutiny or a vote by MEPs before the transition period ends on 31 December.

Mr Johnson has told MPs they will be called back from their Christmas break to vote on any deal that may be agreed. 

Markets have risen in recent days as the prospect of a deal improved, but the FTSE 100 closed lower on Thursday following Mr Gove’s comments.

The Bank of England said it was prepared to intervene to support the economy if the pound slid following no agreement on Brexit.

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