PM says UK must prepare for a no-deal Brexit

Boris Johnson says there is a "prospect and possibility" of leaving EU on December 31 without a trade deal
Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen have been in talks this week. Photo: Xinhua/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

By Kate Proctor

11 Dec 2020

Boris Johnson has said there is now a "prospect and possibility" of leaving the EU on December 31 without a trade deal and told cabinet ministers they must prepare for that outcome.

His statement comes less than 24 hours after he sat down for dinner with the president of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen to try and progress talks in Brussels.

On Wednesday she said the EU and UK remained "far apart" in their position and yesterday released four contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit, showing the EU is also preparing for that outcome. 

The pair agreed that this Sunday is the new deadline when they will decide whether or not any more talks on a deal are worth having.

But the prime minister painted a grim picture of the chance of progress, claiming current proposals on the table are not right for the UK because of the EU's stance on equivalence and fishing rights. 
 
"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," he said.
 
"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.

"Or if the EU decides to buy an expensive handbag then the UK has to buy an expensive handbag too or else face tariffs… Clearly that is not the sensible way to proceed and it’s 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."
 
On fishing, he said the EU is not proposing to allow Britain control of its own waters.

He said: "And so the Cabinet agreed very strongly with it that we’re really not there yet at all."
 
In the coming days he said he would travel to wherever is needed to try and strike a trade deal - whether that's Brussels, Paris or Berlin. Though he warned that no-deal, which he describes as "Australian terms", are a possible outcome. 
 
"There’s always the possibility, the prospect of coming out on Australia terms, which I believe are very good terms and we can prosper mightily in that future which is just around the corner. And there are all sorts of amazing opportunities for this country.
 
"So what I told the cabinet this evening is to get on and make those preparations. We’re not stopping talks, we’ll continue to negotiate but looking at where we are I do think it’s vital that everyone now gets ready for that Australian option."

Kate Proctor is political editor of CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared.

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