Boris Johnson could head for no-deal Brexit if talks do not make sufficient progress by June

PUBLISHED: 11:44 27 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:51 27 February 2020

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a centre for homelessness. Photograph: Tim Clarke/DailyExpress/PA Wire.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a centre for homelessness. Photograph: Tim Clarke/DailyExpress/PA Wire.

Boris Johnson could walk away from trade talks with the European Union unless there is sufficient progress by June.

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The government has set out its plans for the talks ahead of the first round of negotiations next week, making clear that it "will not negotiate any arrangements in which the UK does not have control of its own laws and political life".

It states the UK's intention to rely on World Trade Organisation terms under an arrangement with the EU similar to Australia's if progress on a comprehensive deal cannot be made.

A high-level meeting to take stock of progress is scheduled for June, by which time it should be clear whether the Canada-style comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) sought by Johnson is possible by the end of the year.

The negotiation guidelines envisaged the "broad outline of an agreement" by the June meeting, which would be "rapidly finalised" by September.

"If that does not seem to be the case at the June meeting, the government will need to decide whether the UK's attention should move away from negotiations and focus solely on continuing domestic preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion."

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In the Political Declaration agreed by the prime minister and EU last year, the two sides agreed to work towards a deal "encompassing robust commitments to ensure a level playing field".

But Downing Street officials indicated Johnson believes the mandate he won at the general election trumps the declaration, which does not have the status of a binding international treaty.

And they said Brussels had also moved away from the Political Declaration, pointing to the EU's mandate going far beyond the agreed terms on the "level playing field".

Whatever the outcome of the talks, businesses have been warned to expect friction at the border from January 1 because the UK will not extend the transition period and will therefore be leaving the EU's single market and customs union.

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