Brexit: Dominic Raab says trade deal is 'there for the taking'

6 September 2020, 07:33 | Updated: 6 September 2020, 22:30

Dominic Raab said a trade deal is 'there for the taking'
Dominic Raab said a trade deal is 'there for the taking'. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said a trade deal with Brussels is "there for the taking" as the Government looked to step up pressure on the European Union to give way on the remaining sticking points.

Mr Raab said the negotiations had been "boiled down to two outstanding bones of contention" - control of UK fishing waters and taxpayer support for businesses - and urged the EU to come to an agreement.

Mr Raab, speaking to Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, said the UK could not accept being controlled by the bloc's state aid rules after Brexit, and accused the EU of "double standards" in its attempt to have Britain agree to terms beyond those in free trade agreements it has ratified in the past.

"We've actually got the issues boiled down to two outstanding bones of contention," he said.

"There is a good deal there for the EU; we'd love to do that free trade agreement - and if not, we'll fall back on Australian-style rules.

"I think this week is an important moment for the EU to really effectively recognise that those two point of principles are not something we can just haggle away - they are the very reasons we are leaving the EU, but we want a positive relationship and the arm of friendship and goodwill is extended.

"It is up to the EU to decide whether they want to reciprocate."

David Frost and Michel Barnier pictured before the coronavirus pandemic
David Frost and Michel Barnier pictured before the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: PA

It comes after the UK's chief Brexit negotiator has said the Government is not "scared" of walking away from talks with the European Union without a deal.

Lord David Frost is due to hold another round of key negotiations in London with his counterpart Michel Barnier next week as they look to agree a trade deal before autumn sets in.

Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, he said the UK was preparing to leave the transition period "come what may" - even if that meant exiting with no deal, which officials have dubbed a so-called "Australian-style" arrangement.

Informal talks this week between Mr Barnier and Lord Frost failed to find a breakthrough ahead of the eighth round of formal negotiations, which begin on Monday.

Both sides want a deal agreed next month in order to have it signed off by politicians on both sides of the Channel by the end of the transition period on 31 December.

Informal talks this week between Mr Barnier and Lord Frost failed to find a breakthrough ahead of the eighth round of formal negotiations, which begin on Monday
Informal talks this week between Mr Barnier and Lord Frost failed to find a breakthrough ahead of the eighth round of formal negotiations, which begin on Monday. Picture: PA

Differences remain between the pair on issues such as fishing and the level of taxpayer support the UK will be able to provide for businesses once it is an independent nation.

Lord Frost told the newspaper the UK would not agree to being a "client state" to the EU and said Theresa May's administration had allowed Brussels to believe there could be an eleventh hour concession on a trade deal.

He said: "We came in after a Government and negotiating team that had blinked and had its bluff called at critical moments and the EU had learned not to take our word seriously.

Read more: UK risks no-deal Brexit by refusing to compromise, says Barnier

Read more: UK must 'not surrender' to EU over fisheries

"So a lot of what we are trying to do this year is to get them to realise that we mean what we say and they should take our position seriously."

The former diplomat, who is soon to add national security adviser to his portfolio, continued: "We are not going to be a client state. We are not going to compromise on the fundamentals of having control over our own laws."

He ruled out accepting level playing field terms that "lock us into the way the EU do things" and argued that wanting control over the country's money and affairs "should not be controversial".

"That's what being an independent country is about, that's what the British people voted for and that's what will happen at the end of the year, come what may," Lord Frost added.

The MoS reported that Downing Street has created a transition hub, with handpicked officials across Government departments working to ensure the UK is ready to trade without a deal when the transition period ceases on January 1 2021.

The unit will work with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who has led the Government's work on no-deal preparations since last year.

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