Boris Johnson said the UK will pursue a Brexit agreement with the European Union similar to the bloc’s existing arrangement with Australia after a summit of EU leaders declined to offer the prime minister the deal he was seeking.
“From the outset we were totally clear that we wanted nothing more complicated than a Canada-style relationship,” said Johnson in a televised press conference on 16 October.
“That won’t work for our EU partners. They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fisheries in a way that is completely unacceptable for an independent country.
“I have to make a judgement about the likely outcome,” he added. “Unless there’s a fundamental change of approach, we’re going to go to the Australia solution and we should do it with great confidence.”
The change in tactics means that the UK still lacks an agreement with the EU. If one is not reached, the country will leave the bloc with no trade deal in place on 1 January. However Johnson has stopped short of entirely walking away from the talks, saying he is willing to consider discussions should the EU change tack.
An Australian arrangement would mean the UK will operate under World Trade Organisation rules as Australia does not hold a free-trade agreement with the EU despite ongoing talks. Its exports to Europe face tariffs and quotas, which if imposed on the UK, would severely effect major industries such as car production.
Australia currently operates on a WTO-plus arrangement as it has a Mutual Recognition Agreement in place with the EU which allows it to sidestep some regulatory barriers for exports.
In an interview earlier on 16 October, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said talks with the council had “suggested that all the future compromises must come from the UK”.
“There’s some other, more emollient, flexible language coming out of certain corners of Brussels, but I have to say I’m a bit surprised by those conclusions,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.
“There’s a deal to be done but there needs to be flexibility on both sides.”
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