Boris Johnson puts deadline on trade talks with the EU

Five weeks to seal Brexit deal… or we walk: Boris Johnson puts deadline on trade talks with the EU but insists No Deal would be ‘good outcome’

  • Boris Johnson says there is ‘no sense’ in faltering trade talks after October 15
  • He says he won’t compromise on UK’s freedom to set own laws and fish in waters
  • Mr Johnson insists a No Deal departure would still be a ‘good outcome’ 

Boris Johnson today warns Brussels that he will walk away from trade talks in five weeks unless the EU ‘rethinks’ its demands.

In a toughly-worded ultimatum, the Prime Minister says there is ‘no sense’ in allowing faltering trade talks to continue beyond October 15, when EU leaders are due to hold a major summit in Brussels.

Mr Johnson says there is ‘still an agreement to be had’ but says he ‘cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it’, such as the freedom for the UK to set its own laws and fish its own waters.

And he insists that a No Deal departure would still be a ‘good outcome’ from which the UK would ‘prosper mightily’ as it exploits its new freedoms outside the EU.

Boris Johnson says there is ‘still an agreement to be had’ but says he ‘cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it’

‘There needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on October 15 if it’s going to be in force by the end of the year,’ he says. ‘So there is no sense in thinking about timelines that go beyond that point. If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.’

The PM’s comments come ahead of crunch talks in London tomorrow between his chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier. Lord Frost yesterday vowed he would not ‘blink’ in the face of EU demands to accept continuing Brussels oversight of key areas of British law.

He urged Mr Barnier to ‘take our position seriously’ and act now to salvage talks. Lord Frost said the UK was not willing to be a ‘client state’ of Brussels in any circumstances, adding: ‘We are not going to compromise on the fundamentals of having control of our own laws.’

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the negotiations were facing a ‘moment of reckoning’ this week – and warned that thousands of jobs across the EU would be put at risk unless Brussels relented.Mr Raab said there would be a ‘significant downside’ for the economies of EU member states if there was no trade deal, with exports of cars and other goods likely to be hit.

The PM’s comments come ahead of crunch talks in London tomorrow between his chief negotiator David Frost (left) and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier (right)

The Department for International Trade will today launch an advertising campaign to warn EU businesses they must prepare for the changes that will come when the Brexit transition period finishes at the end of the year.

Trade talks have been deadlocked for weeks over the EU’s demands on fishing and the so-called ‘level playing field’.

Brussels wants EU trawlers to be guaranteed their current access to Britain’s fishing grounds for ever. Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that this was unacceptable, adding: ‘Having seen UK fisheries and the fishing industry pretty much decimated as a result of EU membership, the EU’s argument is we should keep control of access to our own fisheries permanently low. That can’t be right.’

An even bigger sticking point is the EU’s insistence that Britain continues to follow EU laws after Brexit in order to guarantee a ‘level playing field’ for continental firms.

Talks are currently stalled over Mr Barnier’s demand to see details of the UK’s new state aid regime before moving on to other areas of negotiation. State aid is the system of rules that cover government support and subsidies for struggling industries.

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured) said the negotiations were facing a ‘moment of reckoning’ this week

Mr Raab said the EU could not ‘credibly be worried’ that the current Conservative administration was likely to push for heavier subsidies than some existing member states. But he said it was a ‘point of principle’ that the UK should set its own rules.

A government source last night added: ‘It is a question of where decisions are made. We had a vote in this country to take back control and we are not going back on that.’ The Prime Minister today stresses he is seeking a simple free trade deal along the lines of the one negotiated between the EU and Canada.

He adds: ‘If the EU are ready to rethink their current positions and agree this, I will be delighted. But we cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it.’

Some senior ministers are privately concerned that the UK is not ready to cope with the impact of leaving the EU without a trade deal at the end of this year.

It would leave the UK trading on World Trade Organisation terms, with tariffs on some goods in both directions. Hauliers have warned of disruption to supply lines if there is no agreement on border controls. 

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