UK could abandon trade talks with EU if no progress by June

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Boris Johnson could walk away from trade talks with the European Union unless a “broad outline” of a deal is achieved by June.

The government today set out its stance ahead of negotiations beginning next week, with guidelines covering trade and other aspects of the future relationship with Brussels.

Revealing details in the Commons today, senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove said it was the government’s aim to achieve “the best possible trading relationship with the EU” but warned that there will be no delay beyond the end of the year.

Although the UK officially left the EU on January 31, it will remain aligned with its rules until the end of 2020 while negotiations continue.

Mr Gove told MPs “This House, our European partners and above all the British people should be in no doubt, at the end of the transition period on December 31 the United Kingdom will fully recover its economic and political independence.”

Businesses have been warned to expect friction at the border from January 1 2021 because, without extending the transition period, the UK will leave the single market and customs union.

A high-level meeting to take stock of progress is scheduled for June, when it should be clear whether the Canada-style free trade agreement sought by the Prime Minister is possible by the end of the year.

If the “broad outline of an agreement” is achieved by the June meeting, Downing Street said it would be “rapidly finalised” by September.

"If that does not seem to be the case at the June meeting, the government will need to decide whether the UK's attention should move away from negotiations and focus solely on continuing domestic preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion."

With talks set to begin on Monday, divisions have already appeared between Britain and the EU over issues including fish, state subsidies and standards.

Mr Johnson has said he will not be making any concessions in ongoing negotiations regarding the relationship between Britain’s legal system and the EU.

Mr Gove echoed this, saying: “In pursuit of a deal we will not trade away our sovereignty.

“We respect the EU’s sovereignty, autonomy and distinctive legal order and we expect them to respect ours.”

But SNP MP Pete Wishart said the statement was "a load of bunkum, baloney and codswallop".

He said: "This is nothing other than a routemap to the cherished no-deal - the real ambition of these Brexit zealots."

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