British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told the country to prepare for a no-deal Brexit and given his strongest signal yet that trade talks with the European Union won’t continue.
On Friday, Mr. Johnson blamed the EU for not taking the talks seriously and said he had to “make a judgment about the likely outcome and to get us all ready.”
“I have concluded that we should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s based on simple principles of global free trade,” he said. “And so now is the time for our businesses to get ready, and for haulers to get ready, and for travellers to get ready.”
Mr. Johnson didn’t rule out a return to the negotiating table but he said it was up to the EU to change its approach. “As far as I can see, they’ve abandoned the idea of a free trade deal. There doesn’t seem to be any progress coming from Brussels,” he said.
“So what we’re saying to them is, ‘Only come here, come to us, if there’s some fundamental change of approach’. Otherwise we’re more than happy to talk about the practicalities … the social security issues, road haulage and so on. But unless there’s a fundamental change of approach, we’re going to go for the Australia solution.”
The EU appeared to brush off Mr. Johnson’s comments and suggested that its negotiators were set to resume talks. “As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations,” said Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, which is the EU’s administrative body.
Britain officially left the EU last January but the country has remained inside the bloc’s single market during a transition period that is set to expire on Dec. 31. Both sides were supposed to use the transition to negotiate a trade deal and Mr. Johnson had been pushing for a deal along the lines of the comprehensive agreement Canada struck with the EU.
However, the Prime Minister has become frustrated in recent weeks at what he believed was foot-dragging by the EU. The EU in turn has blamed the U.K. for failing to negotiate in good faith and for threatening to scrap parts of a treaty the two sides signed last year to ensure unfettered trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
During a summit this week in Brussels, EU leaders voiced concern about the lack of progress on the key issues of fishing rights and state aid. They called on the U.K. “to make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible.”
“We are united and determined to reach an agreement but not at any cost,” said Charles Michel, president of the EU Council, which represents the leaders.
Britain trade negotiator David Frost said on Thursday that he was disappointed at the tone of the EU declaration. He added that he was also “surprised by suggestion that to get an agreement all future moves must come from U.K. It’s an unusual approach to conducting a negotiation.”
Mr. Johnson reiterated that frustration on Friday. EU leaders “want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fisheries, in a way that is obviously unacceptable to an independent country,” he said.
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