PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson is expected to tell the EU’s top three officials next week that they need to “swiftly conclude” a free trade agreement (FTA) or the UK will walk away from negotiations. But Express.co.uk is asking readers: ‘Do you think the bloc will cave in the crunch meetings next week?’
The Prime Minister is expected to demand the EU stops its foot-dragging in negotiations and works out a deal consistent to the ones it has with other countries which will not tie Britain into its laws and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice or force the UK to surrender its fishing waters.
The blunt message will be delivered during a video conference with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli.
The move comes after concerns were raised by the Centre for Brexit Policy (CBP) that the Conservatives would lose all the Red Wall seats they gained from Labour in December if they go soft on a Brexit deal.
Last Friday (June 12), the EU agreed to Britain’s demands to intensify the trade talks over July.
The EU also accepted there will not be an extension to the transition period
A UK Government official said: “The EU was a little slow to agree to an intensified timetable for talks, and has been making noises about so-called tunnels.
“That’s not something we ever wanted and it’s welcome that they’ve now signed up to a sensible process to take the talks forward.
“The high level meeting was always envisaged as a moment to push the negotiations forward.
“We now need to get this resolved and deliver certainty for businesses at home and in the EU as soon as possible.
“There’s a high quality FTA to be done, based on the agreements the EU has already reached with other countries.
“But, whatever happens, we will be ready for January 1, when we will be back in control of our laws, borders and money.”
At the crucial talks next week, Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and David Frost, the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, will also be present.
A source said Mr Johnson will call for negotiations to be “swiftly concluded, with certainty provided to the public and businesses by the autumn at the latest”.
This week, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, called on his British counterparts to soften their stance.
The Frenchman insisted European leaders would not have to revisit his negotiating mandate as long as Mr Frost made “concrete signals” that the UK is willing to meet the bloc in the middle ground.
“I’m ready to compromise,” Mr Barnier told a European trade union leaders conference in Brussels.
During the last General Election in December, the Conservatives won seats in the north of England, Midlands and Wales which were longtime Labour strongholds.
However, the poll conducted by the CBP confirmed the newly won seats are at risk if the government goes soft on Brexit.
The thinktank conducted polling ahead of the official announcement that transition would not be extended on what constituents’ attitudes would be to an extension.
Polling in 34 Red Wall seats for the CBP by ComRes Savanta showed that 51 percent to 42 percent, a clear majority of the public in these battleground seats believe that the COVID-19 crisis should not be used as a pretext for delaying Brexit once the transition period for finalising the terms of departure closes on December 31 this year.
The insistence on no delay is even stronger among “Switchers”, who voted Labour in 2017 but switched to the Conservatives in 2019, largely because they rallied to Mr Johnson’s battle cry of “Get Brexit Done”.
By 56 percent to 43 percent, this pivotal electoral group want Brexit on time or even sooner, a figure that leaps to a 73 percent to 23 percent majority among “Consistents”, people who voted Conservative in Red Wall seats in 2017 and 2019.
Labour’s Graham Stringer, a former minister and a director of the CBP, said: “The main proponents of extending the transition period are the same people who ran the failed Remain campaign in 2016 and the failed second referendum campaign.
“They have absolutely no interest in extending the transition period by one or two years. They have weaponised the coronavirus crisis to try to reverse Brexit.”