"Brexit talks are over" - Johnson

Andrew Cummings
October 17, 2020

The EU has insisted talks in London planned for next week could still go ahead, but warned they would not make a deal "at any price".

"Unless that fundamentally changes, then we're going to have to come out on Australian terms, but we'll prosper mightily nonetheless".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman, in a briefing on Friday, said there was "no point" in Mr Barnier travelling to London unless the 27 member states were willing to alter their position or wanted to discuss sector by sector arrangements to prepare for no deal.

"Finally for first time in my lifetime we have a country on our continent prepared to stand up to these bullies".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Britons on Friday that trade talks between the United Kingdom and European Union are "over" and that the country should "get ready" for a no-deal Brexit.

With businesses and markets increasingly jittery as the deadline nears, European Union leaders demanded Britain "make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible" and chose to step up contingency preparations for an abrupt split. A spokesperson from the British government was cool to the idea of Barnier travelling to London next week for further negotiations.

In a joint statement, the EU27 refused to grant Michel Barnier permission to "intensify" the talks and instead ordered the Prime Minister to compromise.

However, at a briefing for journalists in Westminster, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said the negotiations were now "over".

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, had flagged fisheries and a level playing field for the two sides being persisting sticking points. "I shall say to David Frost we're prepared to speed up negotiations in the next few days".

Businesses on both sides have been warning against a no-deal Brexit, which would severely impact their ability to continue to function in a smooth manner after 45 years of close UK-EU alignment. "And so with high hearts and complete confidence we will prepare to embrace the alternative".

Johnson had set the European Union summit as a deadline for a deal, but is under pressure after fresh warnings that British companies are nowhere near ready for the consequences of a cliff-edge divorce when the post-Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

Talks have narrowed gaps on issues from social welfare to transport but three contentious areas have so far prevented a deal: fair competition, dispute resolution and fisheries, which is particularly important to France.

Lord Rami Ranger, a peer representing Johnson's Conservative party and chairman of trading house Sun Mark Limited, was of the view: "The EU would like to make an example of Britain, so that other member states can not leave the union with impunity".

Business leaders are already anxious about the prospect of a no deal, warning it would have a "devastating impact" on jobs across the board.

The Prime Minister's announcement came after the summit conclusions agreed on Thursday called on the United Kingdom to make the "necessary moves to make an agreement possible". "We have seen light but of course also still shadows in the most recent negotiations", she said.

The general secretary pointed out that the UK's automotive industry "relies on 1,100 trucks delivering parts from Europe every day for it to function" and no customs arrangements will produce "chaos and delays on our borders".

Both sides are calling on each other to compromise on key issues, including fishing and limits on government subsidies to businesses.

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