The European Union said on Friday there were just hours left to strike a Brexit trade deal while Britain called on the bloc to see sense as the two sides race to prevent a turbulent finale to the Brexit crisis at the end of the month.
Both sides are demanding the other compromise amid a flurry of often conflicting messages that, variously, a deal is possible, a deal is in serious trouble or that a deal is imminent.
Several hours after EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told London that there were just hours left to navigate a narrow path towards a deal, Johnson said the British door was open but that the EU should see sense and compromise. Johnson said Britain would keep talking but that he would not compromise on taking back control of its laws and its fishing waters – which he sees as the fundamental point of leaving the EU.
Britain says the talks are stuck on two issues – the so-called level playing field and fishing – and has repeatedly said the EU has to budge or there will be no deal.”We have very little time remaining, just a few hours to work through these negotiations in a useful fashion if we want this agreement to enter into force on the first of January,” Barnier said.
While Barnier said the sides were striving at an agreement, he said the 27-nation bloc would not sign a deal that would undercut its cherished single market of 450 million consumers.
Johnson, the face of the 2016 Brexit campaign, will ultimately have to decide whether to accept the narrow deal on offer from the EU or risk the economic chaos – and applause from hardline Brexiteers – that walking away would trigger.
EU powers are concerned London wants the best of both worlds – preferential access to EU markets but with the advantage of setting its own rules.