Britain and the EU have been locked in talks on trade and the future relationship since March after the Prime Minister delivered on his general election pledge to “get Brexit done” on January 31. Mr Johnson immediately went on the front foot against Brussels negotiators and insisted a free trade agreement would have to be struck before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020 – a deadline he refused to extend. But nearly five months on from the beginning of trade talks, little progress has been made, with bitter arguments breaking out between the two negotiating teams, led by David Frost for the UK and Michel Barnier for the EU.
Both sides have lashed out at the slow progress in trade talks, and have launched blistering attacks on each other for refusing to concede ground on a number of crucial red lines.
Several other red lines are also continuing to force talks into a stalemate, including fishing and the EU’s demands for its fishermen to enter British waters, “level playing field”, state aid and financial services after Brexit.
But Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group think tank, warned Mr Johnson relenting on any crucial red lines in negotiations could see support for his Government plummet among UK voters.
He believes no further progress has been made on reaching an agreement with the EU than they did under former Prime Minister Theresa May, with fears growing a no deal Brexit is fast becoming the most likely outcome.
Brexit news: Boris Johnson has been warned iover making concessions to the EU in trade talks
Brexit news; The Prime Minister has so far stood firm on a number of red lines
Mr Harris-Quinney told Express.co.uk: “If we concede and agree to the EU’s demands and a deal that is even weaker than the one Boris proposed it shows a catastrophic weakness of leadership, and will see the support for this government plummet even below the levels seen under May’s Premiership.
“Some blame can perhaps fall on the impact of the pandemic, but things look no better now in terms of an acceptable deal being reached than they did under May.
“The truth of the matter is, despite huge fanfare Boris’ proposed deal barely differed at all from May’s.
“He managed to successfully spin that it would lead to a much better outcome for Brexiteers, but now the crunch is coming it seems apparent it won’t.
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“The only option to achieve the Brexit people voted for remains a no deal settlement, but ideally a managed one.”
The political expert believes the Remain camp and Leave to some degree have made the mistake of thinking that Brexit is predominantly about “economics” and not “principle”.
Mr Harris-Quinney claimed the majority of Brexiteers want trade deal red lines to be met – even if it means sacrificing a better economic result, and has urged the Government to push for those requirements to be met.
He added: “The great error of remain, and indeed to some extent of Vote Leave, was to assume Brexit was about economics. It wasn’t, it was about principle.
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“The British public prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful servitude, most Brexiteers would accept a worse economic outcome if it means being able to control out own borders and make our own laws.
“Therefore reaching these requirements should be this government’s first priority, regardless of short term economic impact.”
Following the latest round of talks in London last month, Mr Barnier said: “Over the past few weeks the UK has not shown the same level of engagement and readiness to find solutions respecting the EU fundamental principles and interests.”
He also warned the EU and UK have until “October at the latest” to strike a deal or risk the imposition of quotas and tariffs, and said: “This means that we only a few weeks left and we should not waste it.”
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UK counterpart Mr Frost warned “considerable gaps remain in the most difficult areas” and admitted a no deal Brexit scenario is still a possibility.
He said: “It is unfortunately clear that we will not reach in July the ‘early understanding on the principles underlying any agreement’ that was set as an aim at the high-level meeting on June 15.
“We have made progress in areas like trade, trade of goods and services, transport, social security cooperation, EU programmes, participation and so on, which is good.
“But nevertheless big differences do remain, in particular with the familiar questions of the so-called level playing field and fisheries policy.
“We’re in a negotiation. Either outcome is possible. We will work energetically to get a deal but it is possible we won’t reach one.”