At the beginning of a week which Downing Street sources have described as “the last hurrah” in the talks with the EU, sources close to the Prime Minister have made it clear that there will be no prospect of abandoning the government’s key principles. There was a positive sign that deals can be done with Europe as Home Secretary Priti Patel pulled off an historic agreement to tackle illegal migrants crossing the English Channel. But the firm words on Brexit means that the UK will not back down over EU demands to be allowed to continue to pillage British fishing waters or agree to so called “level playing field” demands which would leave British regulations governed by Brussels. The hard line came as British negotiator Lord Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier met yesterday in London to start a last intensive round of negotiations.
However, even as the negotiating teams sat across the table from one another, senior Tory MPs and newly elected ones from the former Labour red wall seats made it clear that the Prime Minister will face a major rebellion if he betrays the referendum vote.
Writing for the Sunday Express, former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged Mr Johnson to embody the spirit of Henry V in the talks.
Quoting from Shakespeare’s play of the conquering English king, he said: “Boris must ‘imitate the action of the tiger; Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage’ and win.”
He added: “A real Brexit – of the kind I support, the public supports, and, yes, Boris supports – will help get us back on our feet by freeing us from the dead hand of the EU and enabling us to make our way in the world again with our heads held high.”
He added that the people of this country “voted to leave because they wanted to restore what they regard as our ancient birthright – sovereignty, the right to govern ourselves in our own country, especially a country with the long and glorious past of Britain. It is as simple as that.”
Rother Valley MP Alex Stafford MP warned the Prime Minister that the outcome of the talks was a vital matter of trust for many voters.
He said: “Millions of Brits put their trust in the Conservative Party at the last election.
“Our Manifesto made it clear that a Conservative Government would take the whole country out of the EU as one United Kingdom. It said that any deal must take us out of the customs union, allow us to set our own tariffs and do our own trade deal and pass our own laws and ensure it is our courts that enforce them.
“Our Manifesto pledged a new relationship with the EU based on free trade and friendly cooperation, not on the EU’s treaties or EU law.
“It promised that there will be no political alignment with the EU. We made it clear that a Conservative Government would secure a deal that would mean the UK will be out of the single market and that the European Court of Justice would no longer have any jurisdiction.”
He added: “We promised the British people that a Conservative Government would secure a deal that will take back control of our laws, take back control of our money, control our own trade policy, introduce an Australian-style points based immigration system and ensure we are in full control of our fishing waters.
“The British people have waited patiently for four and a half years for Brexit to happen. I have every faith that our Prime Minister will deliver the Brexit deal he promised to the British people.”
Brexit negotiators told: ‘Grow up, admit you can’t agree a deal!’ [INSIGHT]
‘Spoiled’ EU told to end attempts to take away British waters [ANALYSIS]
Brexiteers lash out after Barnier offers UK 18% of its own waters [REPORT]
With the coronavirus vote and spending review votes coming next week with potential Tory rebellions, Downing Street last night was keen to calm any Brexit fears among backbenchers in what could be a make or break week for the Prime Minister.
A senior source insisted that the British side “are making clear that they are not about to abandon their principles to reach a deal.”
They noted that the UK would be fine to accept Australia rules with no formal deal and a deal with the EU was not worth any cost.
“Whilst we would prefer to reach an agreement, we will only be able to do that if the EU recognise our independence. No agreement is arguably underpriced.”
The source also noted that the offer by Mr Barnier to give Britain back 15 to 18 per cent of its own fish showed that the two sides are still “significant gaps” on difficult issues.
A government source said: “These figures are risible, and the EU side know full well that we would never accept this.
“There seems to be a failure from the Commission to internalise the scale of change needed as we become an independent nation.”
The EU fish almost half of the fish in British waters and Mr Barnier’s team have been repeatedly told that there needs to be a change to that situation in the future and that is something Britain intends to secure.
“The UK team will not settle for anything less than a great deal for U.K. fishing communities that guarantees for the first time in nearly 50 years that we have control over our waters,” the source said.
There is also a high level of frustration in the British team at EU stalling tactics which have meant that the text has only been considered at the end of October following many wasted months.
British negotiators have noted that the EU still doesn’t seem to understand that Britain cannot accept a deal that undermines our new status as an independent country.
A source close to the negotiations added: “Over the coming days we will continue to negotiate with creativity and intensity. We hope that the EU will come with some fresh thinking because what we’ve seen so far doesn’t cut it. They must understand that we are not going to sell out our sovereignty.”