Britain is ready to keep negotiating with the European Union on post-Brexit trade “until there’s no point in doing so any further” but it can’t compromise on issues of sovereignty and control of its fishing waters, a cabinet minister has said.
Environment secretary George Eustice on Sunday said that the UK was prepared for a no-deal Brexit on 31 December “if necessary.”
He told Sky News: “We’ve actually been doing huge amounts of work on this for a long period of time.”
“We had done a lot of preparation to leave without an agreement last October and we’ve been preparing ever since for the prospect of potentially having to leave without an agreement at the end of this year. We’ll be ready to do so if that is what transpires.”
Eustice also told Sophy Ridge on Sunday, that progress was being made but the EU had “added a whole load of additional demands” which was a “setback” that created problems.
Speaking ahead of a call on Monday between UK prime minister Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, the environment secretary said that post-Brexit trade talks were in a “difficult position.”
When it comes to certain issues, Britain is not going to budge, Eustice declared.
As Brexit negotiators resumed 11th hour talks on Sunday, Eustice said the UK is prepared to make some agreements on the so-called level playing field, but argued the EU must treat the UK as a sovereign power.
Speaking on the key sticking point of fishing, he accused the EU of making “ludicrous” demands over future fishing rights.
Meanwhile, former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown warned of “huge international implications” if Britain fails to reach a deal with the EU, adding that the country would be in “an economic war with the EU” that would cost the UK “very dearly.
Brown told Sky News that there would be “difficulty” in getting food, drugs and “everything else” into the country without tariffs and holdups.
He added: “But we would also be in an economic war with America, because there would be no chance of [a] trade treaty with America.
“Boris Johnson is going to end up as the most isolated prime minister in peacetime history with no friends around the world, because he has simply chosen a path of confrontation when everybody knows it is Britain’s economic interest — maybe not in the Brexiteers’ ideological interest —to get a deal and get a deal now.”
It follows an hour-long phone conversation between Johnson and von der Leyen on Saturday.
The EC chief said that talks are stuck on three critical issues and “further effort” will be made to break the deadlock, in a televised statement after the call.
“In a phone call today on the on-going negotiations between the EU and the UK, we welcomed the fact that progress has been achieved in many areas,” she said.
“Nevertheless, significant differences remain on three critical issues: level playing field, governance and fisheries. Both sides underlined that no agreement is feasible if these issues are not resolved.
“Whilst recognising the seriousness of these differences, we agreed that a further effort should be undertaken by our negotiating teams to assess whether they can be resolved.”
Johnson and von der Leyen will resume talks on Monday.
Watch: What is a no-deal Brexit and what are the potential consequences?