Johnson accused the EU of refusing to give Britain a trade deal like the one it has with Canada, which the UK is seeking. His spokesman went further, saying the talks ended effectively.
Trade talks are over, spokesman James Slack said. The EU effectively concluded them yesterday by declaring at a summit in Brussels that the UK would have to change position significantly or there would be no agreement.
Downing St.s’s hard-line stance casts doubt on the EU’s intention to continue negotiations in London next week.
Reiterating a statement by Johnson earlier, he said that only if the EU radically changes its position will it be worth talking about.
EU leaders have insisted they still want a deal – though, as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, not at any cost.
Von der Leyen said EU negotiator Michel Barnier will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations. Britain seems to have rejected that offer.
There is only one point for Michel Barnier to come to London next week if he is prepared to discuss all matters under the legal text in an expedited manner without being asked to make any moves by the UK, Slack said.
Britain toughened its stance and escalated tensions without doing well Johnsons’ threat to pull out of negotiations if an agreement was not reached by the EU summit ending on Friday.
As far as I can see, they have abandoned the idea of a free trade agreement. Unless there is a fundamental change of approach, we will go for the Australian settlement, Johnson said in London.
Australia does not have a comprehensive trade agreement with the EU. The Conservative Johnsons government insists Britain can still thrive in those conditions, which means tariffs and other barriers between the UK and the EU, its biggest trading partner. But many economists say it would be devastating for many British businesses, which are already battling a major economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain formally left the EU on 31 January but remains part of its economic structures until 31 December. The two sides have been trying to reach an agreement on trade and other relations before then and say in practice it should be agreed this month whether it will be ratified by the end of the years.
Despite Johnsons’ volatile tone, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday that the gaps between the two sides were small.
Raab said the changes remained only on two issues: the entry of EU vessels into UK fishing waters and equal field rules to ensure fair economic competition between Britain and the bloc.
The issues are really tight right now, Raab said.
Months of talks have focused on highly symbolic fisheries issues for maritime nations from both sides and rules to ensure common regulatory standards and fair competition. The EU fears the UK will gain an unfair advantage by cutting food, workplace and environmental standards and pouring state money into businesses once it is free from bloc rules.
Britain accuses the bloc of seeking to impose requirements it has not imposed on other countries with which it has free trade agreements, such as Canada.
They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fishing, in a way that is clearly unacceptable for an independent country, Johnson said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she still believes it would be in the interest of both parties to have an agreement.
No one, neither Britain nor the EU wants a deal at any cost, she told reporters in Brussels. We are prepared to continue negotiations. We have seen light, but of course also shadows in the latest negotiations, and if it depends on the European Union – and me personally – we just have to continue these talks.
French President Emmanuel Marcon said an agreement requires effort, especially from the UK
Let us keep in mind that it is the UK that wants to leave the EU and needs an agreement much more than we do, he said in Brussels.
Confidence between the two sides, already weakened by years of Brexit fraud, took a turn for the worse last month when Johnson introduced legislation that violates parts of the withdrawal agreement he himself signed with the EU just last year.
The European Parliament, which must approve any agreement, has vowed not to approve any trade agreement unless the UK government withdraws the legislation. Britain says the bill, which has not yet become law, is needed as a security policy in case the EU behaves unreasonably after Brexit.
Raf Casert reported from Brussels.
Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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