UK Calls off Trade Talks with EU

It’s hard to tell if this is a negotiating ploy or more substantive.

“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.

[…]

Boris Johnson’s public declaration that the UK should prepare for No Deal did not cause great concern within EU circles.

The immediate response came in a tweet from Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who said it was full steam ahead for trade talks next week and that EU negotiators would be getting on their Eurostar to London as planned.

But the subsequent statement from the prime minister’s official spokesman – off-camera, but on-the-record – that the “trade talks are over” has left senior diplomats “deeply unimpressed”, as one put it to me.

Although “we’re getting used to being part of Johnson’s pantomime”, they added.

Some EU figures fear Boris Johnson still doesn’t know if he actually wants a deal and is trying to buy time while be grapples with the Covid crisis.

Following the hardening the British position by Number 10, France’s President Macron called on the prime minister to make up his mind, while there was still time.

Many in Brussels remain “cautiously optimistic” some sort of deal can be agreed but any route there is now even harder to see.

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