Downing Street has ramped up expectations of a no-deal Brexit by saying that Boris Johnson will prioritise a clean break from EU regulations and courts over smooth trade in upcoming talks with Brussels.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson said there was “absolutely” no question of the prime minister extending talks on the future relationship with the EU beyond 31 December – after which the UK will crash out on World Trade Organisation terms if no deal has been agreed, with the potential for massive disruption to trade and travel.
The comments – which represent a significant hardening in Downing Street’s position – came as France accused the UK of using the self-imposed deadline as a way of “blackmailing” the EU into accepting a bad Brexit deal.
The PM’s spokesperson denied the blackmail allegation and said that there would be no extension to negotiations once the 11-month transition period agreed by Mr Johnson comes to an end.
“The UK’s primary objective in negotiations is to ensure that we restore our economic and political independence on 1 January 2021,” he said.
Asked later whether this meant that avoiding alignment with Brussels regulations and preventing any role for the European Court of Justice in ruling on future trade disputes were greater priorities than ensuring smooth trade after the end of this year, a senior No 10 source said: “Yes.”
The source added: “Our overriding objective in the negotiations is by 1 January to have taken back control and we won’t agree to anything that doesn’t deliver that. Which means no rule-taking from the EU and no role for the European Court of Justice.
“Our red line is we have to have taken back full control by 1 January.”
The PM’s spokesperson appeared to confirm that the new trade arrangements coming into force in 2021 will involve some sort of controls or checks on goods travelling from the British mainland to Northern Ireland, as a result of Mr Johnson’s acceptance of a customs border in the Irish Sea in a protocol of the UK’s withdrawal agreement.
The spokesperson said that the new system would “ensure unfettered market access for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain”.
But asked repeatedly whether the same unfettered access would be available for goods travelling in the other direction, he would say only that the PM was clear that “beyond the limited changes introduced by the protocol” there would be no changes to GB-Northern Ireland trade. [...]
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