LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that now was the time to prepare for a Brexit-free deal if the European Union did not change course, telling Brussels bluntly that there was no point in continuing negotiations.
A tumultuous non-negotiable finale of the UK’s five-year Brexit crisis would sow chaos across delicate supply chains across Britain, the EU and beyond – just as the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic worsens.
In what was supposed to be the Brexit meeting on Thursday, the EU issued an ultimatum: it said it was concerned about the lack of progress and called on London to give the main points of the blockade or see a severance of ties with the bloc from January. 1
I have concluded that we need to get ready for January 1 with deals that are more like Australia based on simple global free trade principles, Johnson said.
With high hearts and full confidence, we will prepare to embrace the alternative and thrive vigorously as an independent free trade nation, controlling and enacting our own laws, he added.
EU heads of government, concluding a summit in Brussels on Friday, rushed to say they wanted a trade deal and that talks would continue, though not at any cost.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s most powerful leader, said it would be best to reach an agreement and that compromises would be needed on both sides. French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain needed a Brexit deal more than the EU with 27 countries.
Johnsons spokesman said the talks were over now and there was no point in EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier coming to London next week banning a change in approach. [L8N2H747X]
However, Barnier and his British counterpart David Frost had agreed to speak again early next week, Downing Street said.
The pound fluctuated in the Brexit news, falling one cent against the US dollar in Johnsons remarks, but then rose before falling back into the comments of his spokesmen.
After urging London to make further concessions on a deal, diplomats and EU officials toss Johnsons move a little more than rhetoric, portraying it as a frantic attempt to secure concessions before a one-minute deal was reached The last.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he thought Johnson had signaled that London was ready to compromise.
While US investment banks agree that a deal is the most likely end result, the consensus was wrong in the Brexit 2016 referendum: when the British voted 52-48% to leave, markets collapsed and European leaders were shaken.
Asked if he was leaving the talks, Johnson said: If there is a fundamental change of approach, of course we are always ready to listen, but it did not seem particularly encouraging from the Brussels summit.
Unless there is a fundamental change of approach, they would go for the Australian settlement. And we have to do it with a lot of confidence, he said.
An so-called Australian agreement means that the UK would trade on the terms of the World Trade Organization: as a country without an EU trade agreement, like Australia, tariffs would be set according to WTO rules, which is likely to cause significant price increases.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she was eager for a deal, although Macron was weaker.
The state of our conversations is not that we are stumbling on the issue of fishing, which is the British tactical argument, but we are stumbled on everything. Everything, Macron said.
The remaining 27 EU leaders, who chose to stay in the EU, are not there just to make the British prime minister happy, he added.
Merkel called on Britain to compromise. This of course means that we too will have to make compromises, she said.
Britain formally left the EU on 31 January, but the two sides have been bargaining for an agreement that would govern trade in everything from car parts to medicines when the informal membership known as the transition period ends on 31 December.
Johnson had repeatedly stated that his preference was for a deal but that Britain could make a success of a no-deal scenario, which would throw $ 900 billion in annual bilateral trade into uncertainty and could blur the border, turning the county southeast of Kent in a spacious truck park.
EU 27 members, whose combined economy is $ 18.4 trillion and the UK’s $ 3 trillion dwarf economy, says progress has been made in recent months although compromise is needed.
The main points of stalemate remain fishing and the so-called equal field – rules that aim to stop a country from gaining a competitive advantage over a trading partner.
Additional reports by Michael Holden, Elizabeth Piper and Kate Holton in London, Gabriela Baczynska and John Chalmers in Brussels, Kirsti Knolle in Berlin and Michel Rose in Paris; Written by Guy Faulconbridge; Edited by Mark Heinrich and Toby Chopra
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