Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday Britain was ready to walk away from post-Brexit trade talks with a “no-deal” unless the European Union shifted its position.
He accused the EU of failing to negotiate seriously and said on Britain should “get ready” to operate on stripped-down World Trade Organization rules from January, “unless there is a fundamental change of approach” from Brussels.
The European Union is continuing to work for a Brexit accord, the head of the bloc’s executive said on Friday after Boris Johnson said it was time to prepare for a no-trade deal split at the end of the year.
Brexit deal ‘cannot be changed’ by law, says EU Chief
“The EU continues to work for a deal, but not at any price,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said around an hour after Johnson’s comments, which sent sterling lower.
“As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations,” she said on Twitter.
An EU official added: “It’s very good that he (Johnson) wants to keep on negotiating.”
Johnson accused the EU earlier on Friday of having refused to negotiate seriously for an agreement on the future relationship between Brussels and London, and that unless the EU changed course there would be no deal.
Asked to comment on Johnson’s statement that it was time to prepare for a no-deal scenario, a senior EU diplomat said: “A lot of EU leaders said the same thing last night in the debate.”
He was referring to an EU summit discussion on Thursday at which the 27-nation bloc delivered an ultimatum, calling on London to yield on key sticking points or settle for a rupture of relations with the bloc from January 1.
However, an EU diplomat noted that Johnson did not say specifically that Britain was leaving the negotiating table.
“So it’s all just rhetoric. He didn’t say they won’t keep on talking. So they will,” the diplomat said.
An EU official said the bloc’s Brexit negotiating team was “already packing for an intense week in London” and added: “On the whole Australia deal/Canada deal revival... it’s just not serious.”
The official was referring to Johnson’s comment that he had concluded Britain should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s based on simple principles of global free trade rather than a zero-tariff and zero-quota deal.
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