British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Sunday a deadline of October 15 for a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union to allay fears of a “no-deal” chat if talks fail.
The eighth round of negotiations will continue this week in London, with both sides talking ever harder on charges of intransigence and political brinkmanship.
UK negotiator David Frost did little to raise expectations of a breakthrough in a rare newspaper interview published Sunday. He made no promises to compromise on the red lines of London.
His EU counterpart Michel Barnier said this week that talks on the need for an agreement on EU access to UK fishing waters and state aid rules have passed or failed but the UK gives no reason.
Brussels has already indicated that an agreement could be reached by mid-October at the latest, as the European Parliament needs a translation and ratification.
Despite months of refusal to confirm a set deadline, Johnson agreed.
“An agreement must be reached with our European friends by the European Council on October 15th if it is to come into force by the end of the year,” he said in the comments released by his office.
“So it makes no sense to think beyond this point. If we can’t come to an agreement by then, I don’t see a free trade agreement between us.”
In that case, the UK will sign an Australian-style agreement with the EU or a similar agreement with Canada and other countries, he said.
Australia trades with the EU according to the rules and tariffs of the World Trade Organization. But Johnson, whose administration had said it wanted a “zero tariff, zero quotas” regime, insisted it was still a “good result” for Britain.
Open the door
Johnson’s warning is likely to exacerbate criticism of the EU by the UK “remaining” that his ruling Conservative administration has been contemplating a “no deal” scenario all along, despite claiming otherwise.
“Brexiteers” had promised that a deal with Britain’s largest trading partner would be straightforward and rejected criticism that it would be tedious and even impossible to sever almost 50 years of ties with Europe.
Britain officially left the 27-member bloc on January 31, nearly four years after a divisive referendum that politically crippled the country and saw two prime ministers step down.
Johnson, who took over after Theresa May repeatedly failed to get her Brexit divorce treaty through parliament, pledged that UK borders and ports will be ready when the so-called transition period ends on December 31st.
Britain remains bound by EU rules as it tries to set new terms for its relationship.
Talks, which were already on a tight schedule before the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, have stalled, particularly due to disputes over fishing rights and rules for fair competition.
Johnson didn’t completely rule out a deal and vowed to work hard to get one this month. But he promised Britain “will be ready” if talks collapse.
“We will have full control over our laws, our rules and our fishing waters,” he promised.
“We will be free to enter into trade deals with any country in the world. And we will thrive mightily as a result.”
“Even under these circumstances, we will of course always be ready to talk to our EU friends …
“Our door will never be closed and we will act as friends and partners – but without a free trade agreement.”
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)