UK Government Warns Trade Talks With EU Are ‘Over’ And Britons Should Prepare For No-Deal Brexit

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KEY POINTS

  • Johnson added there was “no point” in continuing talks, as scheduled, with EU officials
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “The EU continues to work for a deal”
  • Johnson’s political opponents in the U.K. also criticized his stance

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

As a result, come Jan. 1, 2021, the trading relationship between Britain and the continent will revert to terms of the World Trade Organization – meaning an array of tariffs and quotas.

“I have concluded we should get ready for [Jan. 1] with arrangements more like [the one EU has with Australia] based on simple principles of global free trade,” Johnson said. “So now is the time for our businesses to get ready, and for [road transport workers] to get ready, and for travelers to get ready.”

Johnson added there was “no point” in continuing talks, as scheduled, with EU officials next week – in the absence of a detailed legal text related to an agreement from the bloc.

Downing Street urged the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier not to bother coming to London next week.

“Trade talks are over,” Johnson’s spokesman said. “The EU have effectively ended them by saying they do not want to change their negotiating position.”

Johnson earlier said he would have liked to have negotiated a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU similar to what Canada has – but Brussels rejected it.

“For whatever reason it is clear from the [recent] summit that after 45 years of membership [in the EU and its predecessors] they are not willing — unless there is some fundamental change of approach — to offer this country the same terms as Canada,” Johnson said. “And so with high hearts and complete confidence we will prepare to embrace the alternative.”

In response to Johnson’s inflammatory rhetoric, the EU did not flinch. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “The EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price. As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations.”

Among the many disagreements between London and Brussels are questions over the EU’s access to the U.K.’s fishing waters and refusals by Johnson to adhere to EU’s rules on providing state aid. As a member of the EU, the U.K. was prohibited from giving government money to local companies if such assistance “distorts or threatens to distort competition” by favoring certain firms over others in other countries.

Jonathan Blake, BBC political correspondent, wrote that there’s “no doubt that Downing Street is sending the clearest signal possible that it expects the EU to make the next move in these negotiations. And the rhetoric accompanying the talks has reached a new level.”

Blake added: “But both sides still want a deal, the process has not broken down and there is still time to reach an agreement. It’s one thing to declare the talks over, it’s another thing to refuse to continue talking.”

Johnson’s political opponents in the U.K. also criticized his stance. The Labour Party’s Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Rachel Reeves called on the government to “step back from the brink” and “stop posturing.”

“Any tariffs or any delays at the border will make it harder for goods to flow freely, whether those are foods or medicines,” she said.

According to an analysis by CNN Business — based on forecasts from Citigroup and the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the London-based economic research institute — the lack of a trade agreement with the EU could reduce the value of the U.K. economy by more than $25 billion in 2021 compared to a situation in which a limited free trade deal is agreed upon.