Boris Johnson has warned Britain is likely to leave the European Union on December 31 without a trade deal in place. Both sides insist they want an agreement to cover around £700billion in annual trade but negotiations continue to be at a standstill. The Prime Minister and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen have given their negotiating teams until Sunday to break the deadlock over fishing rights and EU demands for Britain to face consequences if in the future it diverges from the bloc’s rules.
On Friday evening, EU leaders had also rejected a proposal from Mr Johnson for a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, EU officials said.
Mr Macron has been particularly vocal on the periphery of negotiations, with his French government threatening to veto any deal that doesn’t meet the red lines they have set out – particularly around fishing right’s in UK waters for his country’s fishermen.
Britons have exploded with fury over what they say have been constant threats from the EU and various leaders during the tense and often bitter post-Brexit trade deal negotiations.
One Express.co.uk reader said: “Johnson has reached the point of no return.
“He either comes out a hero or will destroy his career and for the second time (May was the forerunner) any chance the Tories have of a long tenure.
“Four-and-a half-years putting up with the threats and criticism is a national disgrace.”
A second person commented: “They (the EU) clearly don’t care about having the European equivalent of Singapore on their back doorstep. So let’s just get on and do it.
“They have short memories and we owe them nothing. In fact, the reverse is true.”
On Friday evening, Mr Johnson admitted it is “very, very likely” there will not be a trade deal with the EU as time quickly runs out to strike an agreement and have it ratified before the transition period expires at the end of this year.
But he insisted regardless of the outcome of talk this weekend, “we’ll be able to do exactly what we want from January 1”.
The Prime Minister said: “It’s looking very, very likely we’ll have to go for a solution that I think will be wonderful for the UK.
“We’ll be able to do exactly what we want from Jan. 1. It will obviously be different from what we set out to achieve,” Johnson told reporters.
“If there’s a big offer, a big change in what they’re saying then I must say that I’m yet to see it.”
Downing Street later confirmed Mr Johnson had also held a meeting with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and several other senior officials to assess the UK’s preparedness for a no-deal departure.
Ms von der Leyen was quoted by an EU official as telling leaders from the 27 remaining member states attending the latest summit in Brussels that the prospects of a trade deal with the UK had deteriorated significantly.
The official said: “The probability of a no deal is higher than of a deal.”
Mr Macron faces huge pressure from France, with the country’s fishermen urging him to ensure the EU defends their fishing rights.
During the EU summit, the French President was asked by a report about a proposal from Brussels for a one-year contingency plan, under which EU fishermen would keep access to Britain’s fishing waters.
He replied: “I’m not asking to have my cake and eat it, no.
“All I want is a cake that’s worth its weight, because I won’t give up my share of it either.”
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also warned: “Time is running out and we need to prepare for a hard Brexit.”