Boris Johnson has warned there is a “strong possibility” the UK will fail to broker a trade agreement with the EU as he told the nation to prepare for no-deal at the end of the Brexit transition period.
The prime minister said the current proposals would keep the nation “kind of locked in the EU’s orbit” but insisted negotiators would “go the extra mile” in trying to get a treaty in time for December 31.
Johnson told his cabinet on Thursday evening to “get on and make those preparations” for a departure on terms like Australia’s, which does not have a trade deal with Europe unlike Canada.
“I do think we need to be very, very clear, there is now a strong possibility – a strong possibility – that we will have a solution that is much more like an Australian relationship with the EU than a Canadian relationship with the EU,” he said.
Elsewhere in the interview, he added: “So what I told the Cabinet this evening is to get on and make those preparations. We’re not stopping talks, we’ll continue to negotiate but looking at where we are I do think it’s vital that everyone now gets ready for that Australian option.”
In his first interview since dinner with Ursula von der Leyen, Johnson said the UK will do “everything we possibly can” to get a deal when asked if it would be a failure of politics not to strike one.
He said he would be willing to return to Brussels, or head to Paris or Berlin, to get a deal over the line, in a clear reference to French president Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who are seen as two figures adamant not to cave in to British demands.
“At the moment, I have to tell you in all candour that the treaty is not there yet and that is the strong view of our cabinet as well,” Johnson added.
He said that sticking points include “equivalence”, which he said would keep the UK “locked” in the bloc’s regulatory orbit, and fisheries, which he said under current proposals would mean “we wouldn’t still have control of our waters”.