A cabinet minister has claimed that negotiations over the UK’s future relationship with Europe after Brexit can not go on ‘forever’.
Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt told parliament that a deal must be reached soon.
‘We cannot keep negotiating forever, we have to allow our businesses, our farmers, our citizens time to implement the decisions taken,’ she told MPs.
‘And that is why we are at this key stage now where we have to increase and escalate negotiations because we need to arrive at a deal soon.’
The minister acknowledged that the fourth round of Brexit trade talks were ‘constructive’ but that there was ‘no movement on the most difficult areas where differences of principle are at their most acute’.
‘We’ve now reached an important moment for these talks. To make progress we need to accelerate and intensify our work and the government is working closely with the EU to achieve that,’ she added.
Mordaunt said gaps still remained on both sides over points such as the level playing field, fisheries, and governance. She also reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to exit negotiations by December 31, even if no deal is reached.
SNP cabinet office spokesman Pete Wishart mocked the government for blaming the EU for the current deadlock.
‘It’s going to be misery heaped on misery as Covid and Brexit appear like the twin horsemen of the economic apocalypse trampling over any prospect of a recovery,’ he said.
‘And whose fault is it going to be? Obviously them, nothing to do with us gov’, it’s all these nasty, invidious Europeans, how dare they hold this government to the commitments they’ve already given in good faith? These fiendish Europeans asking us to deliver on what we’ve already agreed to.’
He added: ‘When you see them sitting down to negotiate, it’s like watching the Scotland B team taking on Brazil of the 1970s, it’s almost cruel to observe.
‘Them (the EU negotiators) with their screeds of documents and facts, and team GB with their ill-fitting clown shoes.’
Meanwhile, two Tory ministers have urged the government to work with businesses to ensure a smooth transition out of the single market and customs union.
Skipton and Ripon MP, Julian Smith, said the government must start working with businesses to prepare them for the December 31 deadline. Former environment minister Theresa Villiers backing the call.
‘The nature of the trading relationship that the UK is now seeking with the EU means that whatever the outcome of the negotiations the formalities that exporters will need to comply with will change on January 1,’ Villiers said.
‘So can I urge the government to step up engagement so businesses across the across the country – large and small – are ready for the end of the transition period?’
Responding, Mordaunt said: ‘We hope to be able to start doing that very soon indeed.’