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Boris Johnson: Trade talks shouldn't go on after 15 October if there's still no EU-UK agreement

The UK is reportedly planning legislation to overwrite key elements of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson has said that there is “no sense” in EU-UK trade talks continuing beyond 15 October, in a statement given amidst reports that the UK plans to abandon commitments given in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

The reports indicate that sections of the UK’s Internal Market Bill are expected to “eliminate” the legal force of the Withdrawal Agreement in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs.

This has caused some concern in Ireland and abroad, though Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told reporters today that a certain amount of “sabre-rattling” is to be expected.

In a statement tweeted out today, Johnson said bluntly:

“There needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European Council on 15 October if it’s going to be in force by the end of the year.

So there is no sense in thinking about timelines that go beyond that point. If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us, and we should both accept that and move on.

The European Union negotiating team had already signalled the end of October as a deadline for securing a trade deal with the UK, leaving enough time to ratify any prospective agreement before the current arrangement expires on 31 December.

Last week, Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said that the level-playing field provisions, fisheries, and the issue of finding a dispute mechanism were the three main issues left to resolve – and emphasised that without an agreement on the first two, there would be no EU-UK trade deal.

Johnson’s statement continued:

“We will then have a trading arrangement with the EU like Australia’s. I want to be absolutely clear that, as we have said right from the start, that would be a good outcome for the UK. As a government we are preparing, at our borders and at our ports, to be ready for it.

We will have full control over our laws, our rules, and our fishing waters. We will have the freedom to do trade deals with every country in the world. And we will prosper mightily as a result.

The EU has said repeatedly that a trade deal similar to Canada or Australia isn’t possible due to the UK’s proximity to the EU, and due to the complexities of what arrangement to put in place for the North.

“There is still an agreement to be had,” Johnson’s statement concludes.

“We will continue to work hard in September to achieve it. It is one based on our reasonable proposal for a standard free trade agreement like the one the EU has agreed with Canada and so many others.

Even at this late stage, if the EU are ready to rethink their current positions and agree this I will be delighted. But we cannot and will not compromise on the fundamentals of what it means to be an independent country to get it.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said if the UK introduces a piece of legislation which will undermine the commitments they’ve made in the withdrawal agreements to the EU “it would have very negative impact on the negotiations that are currently underway”.

He said the agreement is an international legal obligation, and if there is any suggestion the “are not going to implement the legal obligations… that would in my view fundamentally undermine trust between the two parties”.

 ”I think would be a very serious breach of trust,” said Coveney.

“I hope that it is a false story, and that it’s not actually going to be as serious and as negative as some people are suggesting,” he said.

With reporting from Stephen McDermott. More to follow…

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