'Strong possibility' UK will fail to strike Brexit deal with EU, PM says

10 December 2020, 18:09 | Updated: 10 December 2020, 19:16

Boris Johnson has said there is a "strong possibility" of a no-deal Brexit
Boris Johnson has said there is a "strong possibility" of a no-deal Brexit. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

There is a "strong possibility" the UK will fail to strike Brexit deal with EU, Boris Johnson has said.

The PM said the agreement currently being offered by the European Union was "not right" for the country.

He said the UK should now prepare for what he calls an "Australia-style" relationship with Brussels - no deal.

Having just held a Cabinet meeting, he told reporters: "I've just updated Cabinet on where we've got to with our friends and partners in the EU and they agreed very strongly with me that the deal on the table is really not at the moment right for the UK.

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"And I'll tell you why, there's a couple of things at least, the most important is really in just the last couple of weeks, they've brought back the idea of this equivalence between the UK and the EU which basically means that whatever new laws they brought in we would have to follow or else face punishment, sanctions, tariffs or whatever.

"And it was put to me that this was kind of a bit like twins and the UK is one twin the EU is another and if the EU decides to have a haircut then the UK is going to have a haircut or else face punishment.

He said that forcing the UK to keep up with EU regulations was "not the sensible way to proceed" and claimed it is unlike any other free trade deal.

"It's a way of keeping the UK kind of locked in the EU's orbit - in their regulatory orbit," he added.

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Asked if a no-deal scenario would be a "failure of politics and diplomacy", Mr Johnson replied: "The UK will continue to do everything we possibly can.

"I stand ready to talk to anybody, our friends and partners in the EU, whenever they want.

"At the moment, I have to tell you in all candour that the treaty is not there yet and that is the strong view of our Cabinet as well."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said it is "unlikely" that talks will continue after that deadline, but added that "I can't categorically exclude it".

Negotiations have faltered over fishing rights, the level playing field - measures aimed at preventing the UK undercutting the EU on standards and state subsidies - and the way that any deal would be governed.

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It comes as EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss, among many other things, the future of the bloc without the UK.

The PM met the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen last night to try to break the impasse in negotiations, but there was no big breakthrough.

The pair agreed to set another deadline of Sunday as talks go down to the wire.

Earlier on Thursday Penny Mordaunt, a minister in the Cabinet Office, told the Commons the UK will continue negotiating until there is "no hope" of a deal, but said "things do appear gloomy" and "time is running out."

It came as the PM met with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi in Downing Street and talked up a possible post-Brexit trade deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister welcomed the significant investments made by the UAE across the UK.

"They agreed to step up ties in a range of areas including green technology, infrastructure and defence."