The UK on Friday threw down the gauntlet to the EU saying trade talks were “over” unless it changed its positions on key points in the negotiations, with chief negotiator Lord Frost saying there was “no point” continuing the talks today.
No 10 argued planned face-to-face discussions in London were pointless unless the EU was prepared to discuss the detailed legal text of a partnership, the BBC reported.
Canada or Australian deal
In a broadcast on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that with the EU not prepared to offer the UK its preferred ‘Canada-style’ deal, the country had to “get ready” to trade next year without an agreement.
The PM stopped short of saying that negotiations were at an end and the government seemed to backtrack over the weekend, indicating that the door may actually still be “ajar” for talks to continue, according to Michael Gove on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show yesterday.
“[The door] is still ajar,” Gove said. “We hope the EU will change their position and we are certainly not saying if they do change their position we can’t talk to them.”
However, he said that the EU must speed up the negotiations and offer better terms after both sides remained bogged down over fishing and state subsidies.
Although Michel Barnier has not travelled to London today (Monday 19 October), talks will resume remotely with the Guardian reporting the chief negotiators will discuss the structure of future talks. Barnier is having a video conference with his counterpart, Lord Frost, this afternoon.
One senior EU diplomat said they did not expect the standoff to last long given the British government’s evident desire to avoid a double hit to the economy from a no-deal outcome and the second wave of coronavirus.
UK plc wants a deal
Businesses have warned that a failure to reach a deal will accentuate the damage done by the Covid pandemic. Trade bodies representing 190,000 firms have written to Mr Gove urging him to reach an agreement.
“With each day that passes, business resilience is chipped away,” the CBI and other groups said. “A swift deal is the single most effective way to support recovery in communities across Europe.”