Boris Johnson’s Cabinet Backs a No-Deal Brexit if EU Trade Talks Collapse: Report

TOPSHOT - Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative party leader Boris Johnson poses after hammering a "Get Brexit Done" sign into the garden of a supporter, with a sledgehammer as he campaigns with his team in Benfleet, east of London on December 11, 2019, the final day of campaigning for the …
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Members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet have backed the possibility of leaving the European Union without a trade deal, as lastest talks with the EU failed to make any meaningful progress on key differences.

During the latest Brexit talks between the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and Prime Minister Johnson, the two leaders confirmed that “no agreement is feasible” without movement on fishing rights and issues of national sovereignty.

The two did leave room for movement, however, agreeing to a “final throw of the dice” next week, as little over three weeks remain in the Brexit transition period.

The Sunday Times reported that 13 cabinet ministers — including eight who voted against Brexit during the 2016 referendum — have backed the prime minister, should he decide to walk away without a deal.

One Remainer cabinet minister told the paper: “The PM should do what is best. He has total, 100% rock-solid cabinet support.” The minister added: “Just get it done.”

Another Remainer said: “I’d much rather we had a deal but he’s got a no-deal mandate if that is his judgment. Covid and its economic impact is much bigger and we can’t be seen to sell out on key sovereignty issues.”

The European Union has been calling for a 10-year transition period on fishing quotas in British territorial waters while offering to return just 18 per cent of British fish to the UK in return.

The EU is also trying to lock the UK into an agreement that would allow the bloc to set standards on environmental issues, labour rights, as well as setting a so-called ‘level playing field’ on state aid.

Britain has rejected the notion of agreeing to such terms, particularly in light of the economic crisis caused by the Chinese coronavirus lockdowns, in which state funding for businesses may be required for the country to get out of the recession.

French President Emmanuel Macron has been one of the main drivers behind the onerous demands coming from the bloc in the negotiations. Macron, who is up for re-election in 2022, is reportedly concerned that French businesses may face tougher competition from the UK, should the restrictions be lifted in a deal.

The French Europe minister, Clement Beaune, said per The Telegraph: “We will not say to our fishermen we’ve sacrificed you all for them. They will be defended to the last. If there is a deal which is not good, then we would oppose it.”

While the two sides have so far claimed to be “totally stuck” on fishing, regulations, and governance, sources in Brussels have claimed that the last-minute drama will ultimately result in a deal being struck next week.

“There is no deadline, but putting my money on a Tuesday deal. This all seems very choreographed and this drama seems like a pretext for more time,” an EU diplomat said.

“I still suspect we’re in deal territory, which requires a bit more time and a bit more drama. That’s what they’re buying themselves now,” another EU source claimed.

The two principles in the negotiation, Prime Minister Johnson and EU commission president von der Leyen, are expected to have another round of talks on Monday.

British sources have downplayed expectations of securing a deal, with a Downing Street insider saying that chances of a deal are “no better than 50-50″ at the moment.

Another source described the Monday call as “the final throw of the dice”, adding: “There is a fair deal to be done that works for both sides but this will only happen if the EU is willing to respect the fundamental principles of sovereignty and control.”

Despite officially leaving the European Union on January 31st, 2020, the UK remains under the bloc’s control until the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1st. Some have raised concerns that the UK would seek to extend the transition period in order to continue trade talks into next year.

On Saturday night, Brexit leader Nigel Farage said that the British public will not accept an extension, writing: “I do hope that this lack of an agreement does not mean we are heading for an extension. After four and a half years, Brexit voters won’t tolerate that.”

Follow Kurt Zinduka on Twitter here: @KurtZindulka

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