16/10/2020 by https://www.bbc.com/
Talks between the UK and EU over a post-Brexit trade agreement are “over”, Downing Street has said.
No 10 said there was “no point” in discussions continuing next week unless the EU was prepared to discuss the detailed legal text of a partnership.
Earlier, Boris Johnson said the UK had to “get ready” to trade with the EU next year without an agreement.
The EU has said it is willing to “intensify” discussions but it will not do a deal “at any price”.
The UK set a deadline of Thursday to decide whether it was worth continuing talks amid disagreements in key areas.
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said a no-deal outcome seemed to be moving closer after Thursday’s meeting of EU leaders – which the UK was not present at – failed to “move the dial”.
But she said there was still a “long way to go”, with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier due in London next week for further discussions.
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But Downing Street suggested his trip would be pointless unless the EU shifted its position.
“There is only any point in Michel Barnier coming to London next week if he’s prepared to address all the issues on the basis of a legal text in an accelerated way, without the UK required to make all the moves or to discuss the practicalities of travel and haulage,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.
“If not there is no point in coming.”
He added: “Trade talks are over. The EU have effectively ended them by saying they do not want to change their negotiating position.”
Speaking in Downing Street earlier, Mr Johnson suggested the EU was unwilling to seriously consider the UK’s preferred option of a comprehensive free trade agreement based on the bloc’s existing arrangement with Canada.
The UK, he added, must look at the “alternative” – which he suggested was Australia’s much-more limited set of agreements with the EU.
The PM said: “I have concluded we should get ready for 1 January with arrangements more like Australia’s based on simple principles of global free trade.
“So now is the time for our businesses to get ready, and for hauliers to get ready, and for travellers to get ready.
“For whatever reason it is clear from the summit that after 45 years of membership they are not willing – unless there is some fundamental change of approach – to offer this country the same terms as Canada.
“And so with high hearts and complete confidence we will prepare to embrace the alternative.”
The EU and Australia began discussions on a trade deal last year. At the moment, their trade is based on a much looser, decade-old partnership and is governed by World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
This means there are tariffs, or taxes, on Australian goods sold into the EU and vice-versa.
The UK and EU had been hoping for a “zero-tariff” agreement to govern their trading relationship once the UK’s post-Brexit transition period ends in December.
Both sides are calling on each other to compromise on key issues, including fishing and limits on government subsidies to businesses.
In a document issued during Thursday’s European Council summit, the EU said progress in key areas was currently “not sufficient”.
Labour’s Rachel Reeves urged the UK government to “step back from the brink” and “stop posturing”.
“Any tariffs or any delays at the border will make it harder for goods to flow freely, whether those are foods or medicines,” she said.
What if there’s no deal?
By remaining in the bloc’s single market and customs union, the UK has continued to follow EU trading rules during its post-Brexit transition period.
This 11-month period is due to end in December, and the UK has ruled out seeking an extension.
Formal talks began in March and continued throughout the pandemic, initially via video link before in-person discussions resumed over the summer.
If a deal is not done, the UK will trade with the EU according to the WTO’s default rules.
In this scenario, the EU would impose its tariffs on imported UK goods – pushing up the costs of items such as food and cars – and the UK would reciprocate.