LONDON • Britain remains committed to agreeing the outlines of a balanced trade agreement with the European Union, but significant differences between the two sides remain, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday.
Talks on a so-called future relationship, which are now in their fifth round, have all but stalled, raising fears among some companies that there will be disruption at the end of the year if the two sides fail to secure a trade deal.
“We remain committed to working hard to find the outlines of a balanced agreement,” the spokesman told reporters.
“Our preference is to leave with an FTA (free trade agreement) as long as it guarantees our political and economic independence… We will make sure that we’re prepared for all possible scenarios.”
On Tuesday, The Telegraph reported that Britain and the EU will fail to sign a post-Brexit trade deal, with only a few days left before Mr Johnson’s July deadline.
The British government’s assumption is that there will not be a deal, though it remains possible that a “basic” agreement could be reached if the EU gives ground in the autumn, the newspaper said, citing government sources.
The government expects it will trade with Europe on World Trade Organisation terms when the transition period ends, the report added.
Britain left the EU on Jan 31, and its relationship with the bloc is now governed by a transition arrangement that keeps previous rules in place while the two sides negotiate new terms.
Negotiators remain deadlocked on fishing rights, the deal’s governance, the European Court of Justice’s role and so-called level playing field guarantees, the newspaper reported.
Yesterday, Mr Johnson also said Britain did not vote to leave the EU in 2016 because of any pressure from Russia, after a report said the government had failed to investigate whether Moscow had meddled in the referendum.