‘Get ready’ for no-deal Brexit, says UK premier

London: Johnson says UK would not reach an agreement with EU ‘unless there’s a fundamental change of approach’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that the time has come for the UK to “get ready” for a no-deal Brexit on Jan. 1. 

Reading a statement from Downing Street, Johnson said: “From the outset, we were totally clear that we wanted nothing more complicated than a Canada-style relationship based on friendship and free trade.

“To judge from the latest EU summit in Brussels, 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 to an independent country.” 

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ireland’s Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Micheal Martin are seen at Hillsborough Castle, in Belfast, Northern Ireland August 13, 2020. Brian Lawless/Pool via Reuters

The EU Council yesterday said they were “disappointed” by the lack of progress in talks, but would continue in the coming weeks.

The suggestion that talks would drag on provoked ire within the British government, as Johnson previously set Oct. 15 as the date by which a deal had to be reached, or else he would walk away from talks. 

“And since we only have 10 weeks until the end of the transition period on January 1, I have to make a judgment about the likely outcome and to get us all ready,” Johnson continued

“And given that they have refused to negotiate seriously for much of the last few months, and given that this summit appears to explicitly rule out a Canada-style deal, I’ve 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.” 

Johnson continued by telling the UK to get ready: “And we can do it, because we always knew there would be change on January 1, whatever type of relationship we had.

“And so now is the time for our businesses to get ready, and for our haulers to get ready, for travelers to get ready. 

“And of course we’re willing to discuss the practicalities with our friends where a lot of progress has already been made, by the way, on issues such as social security, aviation, nuclear cooperation and so on.”

“But for whatever reason, it’s clear from the summit that after 45 years of membership, they are not willing, unless there is some fundamental change of approach, to offer this country the same terms as Canada,” he said, making his frustrations with the EU clear.

Johnson concluded in an upbeat tone: “And so with high hearts and complete confidence, we will prepare to embrace the alternative and we will prosper mightily as an independent free-trading nation, controlling our own borders, our fisheries, and setting our own laws.

“And in the meantime, the government will, of course, be focusing on tackling Covid and building that better so that 2021 is a year of recovery and renewal.”

Answering questions from the media after reading his statement, Johnson was pressed on whether the UK was pulling out of talks, but he wavered.

“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. So what we’re saying to them is ‘Only come here, come to us, if there’s some fundamental change of approach’,” he said.

“If there’s a fundamental change, your approach, of course, we’re always willing to listen. But didn’t seem particularly encouraging from the summit in Brussels yesterday and today,” he added.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted after Johnson’s statement: “The EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price. As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations.”

The UK left the EU on Jan. 31, 2020, and is in a transition period until Jan. 1, 2021. The trade talks are to secure an agreement for what happens after the transition period ends, as this will also end the free movement of people, capital, goods, and services.

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