Theresa May bowed to huge pressure and stepped down as Prime Minister last year as MPs – from opposite sides of Westminster and from within her own Conservative Party – refused to vote her much criticised Brexit agreement with the European Union through parliament. She was quickly replaced by Brexiteer Boris Johnson, who immediately vowed to take a strong stance with Brussels negotiators and strike a free trade agreement that was favourable to Britain and did not give up any rights to the continental trading bloc. The Prime Minister agreed a deal with the EU, and subsequently delivered on his general election promise to “get Brexit done” by January 31 as it was voted through parliament following the Tories’ huge 80-seat majority win.
Negotiations over a trade deal began in March, with Mr Johnson insisting any agreement must be in place before the end of the transition period on December 31 – a deadline he refused to extend.
But talks have repeatedly stalled, with both sides pointing the finger of blame and launching scathing attacks on each other’s negotiating stances and refusal to back down on a number of crucial red lines.
The latest round of negotiations resume in Brussels on Monday, but time is running out to have a deal ready for a ratification process in the European Parliament in October, intensifying the prospect of a no deal outcome.
Ben Harris-Quinney, Chairman of the Bow Group think tank, said Mr Johnson must take much of the blame for the current impasse the UK currently finds itself in with the EU.
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The truth of the matter is, despite huge fanfare, Boris’ proposed deal barely differed at all from May’s. He managed to successfully spin that it would lead to a much better outcome for Brexiteers, but now the crunch is coming it seems apparent it won’t
He told Express.co.uk: “The truth of the matter is, despite huge fanfare, Boris’ proposed deal barely differed at all from May’s.
“He managed to successfully spin that it would lead to a much better outcome for Brexiteers, but now the crunch is coming it seems apparent it won’t.
“The only option to achieve the Brexit people voted for remains a no deal settlement, but ideally a managed one.
“Some blame can perhaps fall on the impact of the pandemic, but things look no better now in terms of an acceptable deal being reached than they did under May.”
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He added: “The great error of Remain, and indeed to some extent of Vote Leave, was to assume Brexit was about economics. It wasn’t, it was about principle.
“The British public prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful servitude, most Brexiteers would accept a worse economic outcome if it means being able to control out own borders and make our own laws.
“Therefore reaching these requirements should be this government’s first priority, regardless of short term economic impact.”
Mr Harris-Quinney said there is still hope Brexiteer objectives in a trade deal with the EU can still be achieved.
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But with time running, he warned a no deal outcome is looking like the most scenario, but said the Government could use this to “honour its promises to Brexiteers and the British public”.
He told this website: “There is no reason not to continue to push for a deal that satisfies the objectives of Brexit, but all indications at this time suggest it won’t be possible and only a no deal outcome will do so.
“If the Government wants to honour its promises to Brexiteers and the public, it seems a no deal outcome is the most likely option.
“But there remains an opportunity to manage that outcome to avoid a sudden cliff edge.”
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Speaking of the latest round of Brexit trade talks in Brussels next week, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost said a deal can still be reached in September, and that is what British negotiators are working towards.
But he warned anything that might threaten the UK’s sovereignty is “not up for discussion and we will not accept anything which compromises it”.
Mr Frost tweeted: “As always, we go in good faith to talk constructively about all the issues.
“Our assessment is that agreement can be reached in September and we will work to achieve this if we can.
“As we keep saying, we are not looking for a special or unique agreement.
“We want a deal with, at its core, an FTA like those the EU has agreed with other friendly countries, like Canada.
“The UK’s sovereignty, over our laws, our courts, or our fishing waters, is of course not up for discussion and we will not accept anything that compromises it – just as we aren’t looking for anything which threatens the integrity of the EU’s single market.”