The European Union and the UK have been engaged in five rounds of tense negotiations in a bid to secure a free trade agreement before the end of the Brexit transition period in December. Both sides have agreed to ramp-up talks during the summer to have a draft deal agreed by October but the latest meeting appeared to expose continued divergence between the EU and the UK. Brexiteer MP John Redwood warned Brussels the UK insisted the UK would ultimately be “better off” without a formal agreement as he insisted London will “not surrender” to the bloc’s demands.
Speaking at a meeting of the Conservative Bruges Group, Mr Redwood said: “I am delighted the Government has made clear to the European Union we are finally going to shake off the coil of EU regulations and courts at the end of the year, with or without a free trade deal.
“The only way you’re likely to get a free trade deal off them is not to give any ground at all.
“As soon as you start to give ground, the EU will dig in as they’ve done over the past four years and just expect us to make more and more surrenders.
“We don’t surrender our money, we don’t surrender our borders, we don’t surrender our laws, we don’t put ourselves back under the jurisdiction of their court after we’ve properly left and we don’t give away our fish.”
Brexit Britain will
Redwood urged the Government not to “give ground” to the EU in the last phase of Brexit talks
The Conservative MP continued: “Our offer of a free trade deal is a generous and sensible one, it’s in their interests to take it up but if they’re playing politics rather than thinking about economics, they may choose not to.
“Immediately, we should make our own dispositions and I think we can be better off not worse off.”
The warning comes as European sources suggested the UK and the EU are now having discussions on a potential “landing zone” to base their future trade relationship on.
Insiders have suggested negotiators are focussing on a barebones free-trade agreement that would eliminate tariffs and quotas and that would allow the UK and the EU to seal a deal in the short time available before the end of the transition.
Brexit talks have resumed physically after months of lockdown
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and UK negotiator David Frost both warned on Thursday there are still substantial differences between their positions as they said they remained committed to finding a deal.
At the end of the fifth round of talks, the Frenchman said: “The EU expects its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement.
“We need an equivalent engagement by the UK.”
Mr Frost suggested the return to physical meetings after months of lockdown had unlocked a degree of “flexibility”.
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Brexit talks are scheduled to conclude by December 2020 if no extension is requested
He added: “The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful. But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.”
Boris Johnson has insisted he will not allow the negotiations to drag on and ensure the UK proceeded not to request an extension of the transition period at the end of June.
Should London and Brussels fail to agree on a free trade deal on time, the United Kingdom would leave both the single market and the customs union without any policy in place to regulate its access to the European market.
Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union formally took place on January 31, 2020 but during the transition the UK maintained the trading arrangements it had with the bloc before its departure.