Boris Johnson has 'no fear' of No Deal Brexit ahead of EU talks

Boris Johnson has ‘no fear’ of a No Deal Brexit ahead of EU talks tomorrow – as Tory peer Lord Agnew accuses British businesses of having their ‘heads in the sand’ over exit from single market

  • Boris Johnson today told his Cabinet that he has ‘no fear’ of a No Deal Brexit
  • PM said negotiations with Brussels are at a crucial stage ahead of talks tomorrow
  • The Government meanwhile accuses businesses of having their ‘heads in the sand’ over Britain’s exit from Single Market and Customs Union by end of year

Boris Johnson today told his Cabinet that he has ‘no fear’ of a No Deal Brexit ahead of a crunch EU summit this week.  

The Prime Minister told ministers that talks with Brussels are at a crucial stage ahead of speaking to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tomorrow.

It comes as Tory minister Lord Agnew accused businesses of adopting a ‘head-in-the-sand approach’ ahead of Britain’s exit from the Single Market and Customs Union at the end of the year. 

However, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said he did not expect a UK-EU trade deal to be reached at the European Council summit. 

And European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic claimed that the summit on Thursday would be ‘an important moment to take stock’ of the trade negotiations. 

Mr Johnson told his Cabinet that he still believes a post-Brexit trade deal can be done, his official spokesman said.

‘The PM reiterated that, while we want a deal on the right terms, if we can’t get there we are ready and willing to move forward with an Australian-style outcome, which holds no fear,’ the spokesman said.

Australia has no comprehensive trade deal with the EU, but also does far less business with the block that Britain.

Boris Johnson today told his Cabinet that he has ‘no fear’ of a No Deal Brexit ahead of a crunch EU summit this week 

The Prime Minister told ministers that talks with Brussels are at a crucial stage ahead of speaking to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen 

Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, updated ministers from the 27 member states at a meeting in Luxembourg ahead of this week’s European Council summit.

He suggested that talks would go on beyond Mr Johnson’s October 15 deadline. ‘The EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks,’ he said. 

Lord Frost, Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser, will be taking part in negotiations in Brussels until the eve of the summit. 

Michael Roth, Germany’s Europe minister, suggested the UK would have to give further ground on fishing rights, ‘level playing field’ arrangements such as state subsidies, and the way any deal would be governed.

At the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting, Mr Roth said: ‘Frankly speaking, we are at a very critical stage in the negotiations. We are extremely under pressure, time is running out.

‘That’s why we expect substantial progress by our friends from the UK in key areas.’

Mr Roth added: ‘We are well-prepared for both scenarios, everybody should know that a no-deal scenario is the worst case, not just for the European Union but also for the United Kingdom, but we are also prepared for that.

‘But we are working very hard on a good deal, on a sustainable deal which is acceptable for both sides.’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said ‘time is in short supply’ to reach a post-Brexit trade deal.

The spokesman said there was a need for ‘more urgency and realism’ so that progress can be made on the ‘significant gaps’ that remain in areas such as fisheries and the level playing field.

Asked about Michel Barnier’s suggestion that talks would continue in the coming weeks, the spokesman restated the UK’s desire for progress by the European Council summit on Thursday.


Michel Barnier (left), the EU’s lead negotiator, updated ministers from the 27 member states at a meeting in Luxembourg ahead of this week’s European Council summit. He suggested that talks would go on beyond Mr Johnson’s October 15 deadline. ‘The EU will continue to work for a fair deal in the coming days and weeks,’ he said. Lord Frost (right), Mr Johnson’s Europe adviser, will be taking part in negotiations in Brussels until the eve of the summit 

‘There is a need for us to provide clarity in the middle of this month,’ the spokesman said. 

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, who has been leading talks with Michael Gove on the implementation of the Brexit divorce deal, said: ‘EU unity is solid. We continue: full attention, full speed in this final stage.’

Irish foreign affairs minister Coveney said he did not expect a UK-EU trade deal to be reached at the European Council summit tomorrow.

He warned that Mr Johnson’s controversial plan to break international law contained in the UK Internal Market Bill would have to be abandoned if a deal is to command support among the EU’s leaders.

Mr Coveney told reporters in Luxembourg: ‘There are a number of weeks left in this negotiation, not a number of days, so when the European Council meets at the end of this week there will be a detailed stocktake on where we are in these negotiations.

‘But certainly I don’t see that there will be any major breakthrough this week.’

Mr Coveney suggested the end of the month was a more realistic deadline for a deal in order to allow time to ratify it. 

In the UK, Government minister Lord Agnew warned that businesses were not ready for the changes that will come in on January 1 when the country leaves the single market and customs union.

He told the Treasury Select Committee: ‘There’s been a head-in-the-sand approach by traders which has been compounded by what I would call the quadruple-whammy of two false alarms — two extensions at the very last minute — then followed by Covid and now followed by the recession.

‘The traders are not as ready as they should be.’

The comments prompted a backlash from business groups. Confederation of British Industry deputy director-general Josh Hardie said: ‘Businesses are doing all they can to prepare for Brexit.

‘But firms face a hat-trick of unprecedented challenges: rebuilding from the first wave of Covid-19, dealing with the resurgence of the virus and uncertainty over the UK’s trading relationship with the EU.

‘More than three-quarters of businesses want a deal that will support people’s jobs and livelihoods amid these incredibly uncertain times.

‘The best way to help preparations is to agree a deal in the coming weeks.’

Logistics UK policy director Elizabeth de Jong said: ‘Instead of spending the next 11 weeks before the end of the transition period debating who and what is or isn’t ready, Logistics UK is proactively working with Government on a series of metrics to assess readiness, so that Government and industry can be as confident as possible that all is on track for a smooth transition to a new trading arrangement with the EU.

‘Despite the challenges our members are facing to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and the festive season, traditionally our busiest time of year, we stand ready to help keep Britain trading as we always do.’ 

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said a post-Brexit trade deal would be the ‘best outcome’ for all sides.

He told the Lords Economic Affairs Committee today: ‘I do think for all parties involved in this process that a trade agreement is the best outcome.’ 

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