He has told his chief envoy David Frost he will not sign any deal that binds Britain to future Brussels laws.
France’s Emmanuel Macron wants any trade agreement to include the power to levy tariffs if the UK fails to stick close to EU rules on issues such as employment rights and the environment.
Ireland yesterday appealed to both sides to avoid No Deal and a close ally of President Macron acknowledged that Angela Merkel of Germany was pushing for an agreement.
Boris Johnson is ready to quit Brexit talks within 48 hours unless the EU drops ‘ludicrous’ demands that would curb UK independence. Pictured December 2 during a news conference
Dutch sources were also last night indicating they might compromise on fishing rights after initially sticking with the French.
Last night it was reported that a breakthrough had been made, with the two sides close to an agreement over the level of access for EU boats in UK waters. The changes would be phased in over a five to seven years, according to The Guardian.
The three key sticking points:
There are three key sticking points in the negotiations between the UK and the EU on a Brexit trade deal:
1. The ‘level playing field’: the EU has demanded that Britain matches its rules on issues including state aid subsidies, workers’ rights and environmental protections to prevent this country from undercutting firms on the Continent.
2. Fishing: Brussels wants EU trawlers to keep their existing rights to fish in British waters. Although this is a small economic sector in Britain, it has huge symbolic importance.
3. How to resolve any future disputes: Britain is refusing to accept a role for the European Court of Justice.
Lord Frost travelled to Brussels yesterday to resume negotiations with Mr Barnier in what government sources described as a ‘final throw of the dice’. But neither side was predicting an immediate breakthrough.
One source said Mr Johnson was ready to walk away as early as tonight unless the EU backed down, adding: ‘It’s fair to say the Prime Minister isn’t bluffing. It’s pretty clear we will leave on No Deal terms if the EU can’t accept that we will be an independent nation. There won’t be any agreement if the EU do not recognise this reality. We’ll only keep talking if there is some movement and if we think there’s any point.’
An ally of the Prime Minister said he was ‘bullish’ about the UK’s prospects outside the EU, with or without a trade deal.
A senior Downing Street figure yesterday said the chances of a deal were ‘at best 50:50’. Another insider put the figure at just 30 per cent.
Mr Johnson will tonight ask Tory MPs to reinsert controversial clauses in the Internal Market Bill, which were thrown out by the Lords after ministers admitted they would break international law.
Mr Barnier has warned such a move would put the talks in crisis. Downing Street claims the measures are needed to stop the EU driving a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK under No Deal.
Mr Barnier is due to brief EU ambassadors this morning on possible areas for compromise.
Mr Johnson has pencilled in another phone call with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen this evening to discuss whether talks are worth continuing.
A No 10 source confirmed the drawn-out negotiations were ‘entering the last 48 hours’.
Cabinet ministers yesterday backed the PM to pursue No Deal if talks collapsed, saying he had a mandate to ensure Britain took back control of its laws. But many remain nervous about the impact of No Deal on a fragile economy.
Britain’s Chief Negotiator of Task Force Europe David Frost arrives for a meeting with European Union (EU)’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier (unseen) on Brexit negotations at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, December 6
‘The possibility of chaos at the border has been significantly underpriced if talks collapse,’ said a Cabinet source.
A leaked official document setting out the Government’s ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ for No Deal warned it could see severe disruption of vital supplies, including medicine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen makes a statement after a phone call with Boris Johnson, at EU headquarters in Brussels, December 5
Environment Secretary George Eustice acknowledged that tariffs under No Deal would lead to higher food prices, but insisted the rise would be modest.
In a series of interviews yesterday, he accused the EU of introducing ‘a whole load of additional demands’ late in the day, adding: ‘There is no point denying that what happened late last week was a setback.’
He described the EU’s demands on fishing as ‘ludicrous’, saying they would make a mockery of Britain’s newfound status as an independent coastal state.
He said the PM was willing to give assurances that the UK would not slash standards in environmental protection and employment rights.
But he said Mr Johnson would never sign off a deal that met Mr Macron’s demand for Britain to continue following EU rules in future.
Eurosceptic MPs yesterday piled pressure on the PM not to back down. Former Brexit minister David Jones, who is a member of the European Research Group of MPs, tweeted: ‘Total confidence in David Frost and the UK negotiating team to stay steadfast in pursuing a fair free trade agreement that respects UK sovereignty. We must settle for nothing less.’
France’s Emmanuel Macron wants any trade agreement to include the power to levy tariffs if UK fails to stick close to EU rules on issues such as employment rights and the environment
President Macron acknowledged that Angela Merkel of Germany (pictured) was pushing for an agreement
Fellow Tory Andrew Bridgen has said the PM would be ‘finished’ if he signed a deal that failed to guarantee independence.
Former Treasury mandarin Nick Macpherson said the bust-up with France had the hallmarks of the kind of confected row that often precedes a settlement.
‘The UK needs a deal. The EU wants a deal,’ Lord Macpherson added. ‘To convince their constituencies, there has to be a lot of drama in the coming days.
‘But there will be one. There always is – unless one of the parties makes a gross miscalculation.’
EU leaders are due to hold a summit on Thursday, which is seen as the last chance to sign off a deal.
EU is at war over No Deal Brexit: As Emmanuel Macron plays hardball, Ireland warns of ‘very, very costly’ failure to strike a trade agreement… and even Angela Merkel is not on board
- British officials claim Emmanuel Macron has derailed progress in Brexit talks
- He forced EU negotiator Michel Barnier to toughen his stance in negotiations
- Ireland’s premier Micheal Martin said he believes a deal will be reached
- Even Angela Markel is not on board with some of France’s hardline positions
British officials claim the French president derailed progress last week by forcing EU negotiator Michel Barnier to toughen his stance at the last minute.
But with time running out European leaders warned it was vital to strike a trade agreement.
Emmanuel Macron is facing pressure from EU leaders to back down on Brexit as talks continue
Angela Merkel does not endorse France’s hardline stance on state aid, workers’ rights and environmental standards
Ireland’s premier, Micheal Martin, said he felt a deal would be reached because the alternative would be ‘damaging to all concerned’.
The country’s foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said any other outcome made ‘no sense’ for either side.
Mr Coveney, whose country faces the most severe repercussions from No Deal, said failure would be ‘very, very costly and very, very disruptive’.
He added: ‘That, in the context of a post-Covid world which is hugely challenging economically for everybody, doesn’t make any political sense and it certainly doesn’t make any economic or social sense either.
‘For all of those reasons, I think the negotiating teams and senior politicians will find a way of getting a deal here, but at the moment we are in a difficult place as we try to close it out.’
Ireland’s premier, Micheal Martin, said he felt a deal would be reached because the alternative would be ‘damaging to all concerned’
France’s Europe minister yesterday acknowledged that some other EU leaders – including Germany’s Angela Merkel – did not endorse France’s hardline stance on state aid, workers’ rights and environmental standards.
In an interview with Journal du Dimanche, Clement Beaune said: ‘There are different sensitivities across the 27 EU countries. It would be naive to deny it. But the negotiating mandate is detailed and we are sticking to it.
Sovereign Britain could ban fur
Fur sales could be banned from next year when the Brexit transition period ends, the Environment Secretary said yesterday.
George Eustice said he was ‘looking at’ plans to become one of the first countries in the world to bring in the ban.
The issue is close to the heart of Boris Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds and has been championed by Tory peer Zac Goldsmith, an environment minister.
The UK was the first country in Europe to ban fur farming in 2000, but sales of some furs are still legal here and across the EU.
Once the UK leaves the single market, it will be able to unilaterally ban them.
‘We’re looking at a number of issues in the animal welfare sphere. Yes, fur is one area,’ Mr Eustice told Times Radio.
The British Fur Alliance said it will fight any move on a ban, arguing that natural fur is an antidote to fast fashion and, if ethically sourced, should not be prohibited.
‘As for Chancellor Merkel, she wants a deal, but she also defends our demands – and she knows the European market well enough to guess how the German economy would suffer from a bad deal. In short, the British gamble on trying to divide the EU has failed.’
On Friday, Mr Beaune warned that President Macron was ready to veto a deal if it fell short of French demands.
But yesterday he said France was willing to contemplate the UK being free to diverge from EU standards – provided Brussels is able to take ‘corrective measures’ if the differences become too great.
‘The British want access to the single European market without constraints for their social, environmental or health standards, which is unacceptable,’ he said. ‘For our part, we are ready to put in place a system in which a divergence of standards would be allowed but beyond which corrective measures would be taken.
‘The British tell us that this is unfair because other ‘third countries’ do not have these same constraints, such as Canada. But we have to realise that the UK will be our major trading partner outside the EU tomorrow. There is ten times as much trade between the EU and UK than with Canada.’
France has some support from other coastal states, such as the Netherlands and Belgium, which are also concerned about their domestic fishing industries.
But other member states, led by Germany, are anxious to avoid a destabilising No Deal outcome at a time when the continent is already facing a double-dip recession as a result of the pandemic.
In a further sign of EU tensions, the Netherlands last night suggested it was ready to compromise on fishing rights.
But government sources said the Prime Minister would not accept Mr Macron’s demands on the so-called level playing field, where he is pushing for Brussels to have the power to impose immediate tariffs if the UK moves too far from EU regulations in future.
Gavin Barwell, who was Downing Street chief of staff during Theresa May’s premiership, said: ‘Some in the EU think the UK will be forced back to the negotiating table.
‘But there is a real danger that if we don’t get a deal now we will have significant damage to the relationship which takes some time to put right.’
Mr Barnier is to brief EU ambassadors this morning after trade talks reopened last night.
Unite union chief Len McCluskey says Sir Keir Starmer can’t shirk key Brexit vote if an agreement is reached
By Claire Ellicott Political Correspondent for the Daily Mail
Sir Keir Starmer came under pressure from Labour’s biggest union backer last night to support a Brexit deal if an agreement is reached.
Unite boss Len McCluskey warned him not to sit on the fence – but Labour frontbenchers yesterday kept to the party line, refusing to rule out abstaining on a future vote on a Brexit deal.
Sir Keir has a difficult task in uniting his party’s hard core of Remainers with the Labour heartlands in the North which backed Brexit and switched to the Tories in the last election.
Unite boss Len McCluskey warned Sir Keir Starmer not to sit on the fence in the upcoming Brexit vote
Sir Keir has a difficult task in uniting his party’s hard core of Remainers with the Labour heartlands in the North
Strewth! PM’s Rolf Harris hint
Boris Johnson has taken to singing ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport’ in an apparent hint he is ready to embrace an Australian-style No Deal Brexit.
Downing Street insiders say the Prime Minister has been heard to sing the chorus of the Rolf Harris hit when asked about Brexit talks.
Yesterday it emerged he was overheard singing ‘Waltzing Matilda’ last week after being warned the negotiations had taken a turn for the worse. The songs are thought to be light-hearted references to an ‘Australian-style’ arrangement, which is now government code for No Deal. That term has been banned due to negative connotations among some voters.
Instead the PM has spoken about an ‘Australian-style deal’ – although the country has no free trade pact with the EU. Instead, it trades using World Trade Organisation terms – but is seeking a deal with Brussels.
Mr McCluskey yesterday said it would be ‘completely wrong’ for Labour not to vote one way or the other as Brexit was the ‘most important issue of the day’.
Football pundit Gary Neville also weighed in, accusing the party of ‘sitting in the stands’ by abstaining over the tier system last week.
Mr McCluskey said Sir Keir needs to ‘win the trust of the Red Wall seats’ which switched to the Tories in the North.
He said the Labour leader should not be seen to be ‘standing in the way’ of what the Red Wall voted for but should oppose any deal that is not good enough.
‘On the other hand if it’s a thin deal – which I suspect it will be, if indeed we get a deal – he needs to also be in a position in six months if things are going wrong to be able to attack the Government without then being regarded a hypocrite because he voted for the deal,’ Mr McCluskey told Times Radio. Pressed on the issue of Labour voting for a deal, Mr McCluskey replied: ‘Yes, in my opinion let’s get Brexit done and out the way, it won’t stop us being critical if indeed the deal gives us all kinds of issues and problems going forward.’
Sir Keir’s position is to wait to see what Brexit deal Boris Johnson negotiates – a stance his frontbenchers echoed yesterday, as they refused to rule out abstaining on a vote.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves said ‘let’s see’ when asked whether Labour would back any future Brexit deal.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, shadow home secretary, said it would be ‘responsible’ for the party to consider any deal agreed.