No alignment, no concessions – PM to reveal tough approach to Brexit talks

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Boris Johnson will use his first speech since delivering Brexit to tell Brussels negotiators that no concessions will be made and he will accept no alignment to the EU.

The prime minister is due to lay out his plans on Monday for the upcoming negotiations with the European Union, following the UK's formal withdrawal from the bloc at 11pm on Friday.

Mr Johnson is expected to tell his audience – due to gather at a London venue with “historic trade ties”, according to insiders – that “no achievement lies beyond our reach”.

In response, Irish premier Leo Varadkar called for the British Government not to repeat mistakes of the past by putting down "rigid red lines".

It is understood Mr Johnson will put his cards on the table in asking for a Canada-style free trade deal with Brussels – and he is expected to make clear he will accept no alignment, no jurisdiction of the European courts, and no concessions to any Brussels’ demands.

He will say he is not afraid to accept border checks.

The EU has been calling for a level-playing field to be agreed, pressing for Britain to sign-up to adhering to Brussels-set environmental and social standards, as well as rules on state subsidies, to prevent the UK undercutting the single market once the transition period ends in 2021.

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand looks at what to expect from the upcoming trade talks

“There are only two likely outcomes in negotiation – a free trade deal like Canada or a looser arrangement like Australia – and we are happy to pursue both," a government source told PA.

Critics have hit out at the proposals, accusing the Mr Johnson of adopting a “scorched earth” approach to the talks, in a move that flies in the face of his pledges to unite the country after Britain’s January 31 departure from the EU.

Mr Varadkar told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "One thing I'd say to everyone is let's not repeat some of the errors that were made in the past two-and-a-half years, let's not set such rigid red lines that it makes it hard to come to an agreement and let's tone down the kind of nationalistic rhetoric.

"As is always the case when it comes to negotiations, setting out so boldly such firm red lines actually makes coming to an agreement more difficult because the other party you are negotiating with doesn't feel they got a fair deal unless those red lines get turned pink or bent in someway."

The UK formally left the European Union at 11pm on Friday. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA

The prime minister will reveal his post-Brexit vision next week in front of an audience of national and international businesses, along with ambassadors to the UK from countries across the globe.

The EU is expected to publish its own negotiating mandate on the same day, in preparation for the start of the formal discussions in March, which will take place in both London and Brussels.

November marks the deadline for finalising a deal, with agreements on financial services and fishing due to be announced beforehand in June.

The tough approach to the talks from the Conservative Party leader means Britain could face stunted economic growth and customs checks.

The so-called Canada model – previously offered to the UK by Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier as an off-the-shelf solution for a trade deal – allows for almost complete tariff-free trade in goods, but entails some border checks and does not include the UK’s dominant services sector.

The UK officially left the European Union at 11pm on January 31. Credit: PA

Analysis undertaken by the Treasury in 2018 predicted that Britain’s economy would be 4.9% worse off under such a deal within 15 years, when compared with expected growth if it had remained in the EU.

Government sources suggested Mr Johnson will state firmly that the NHS is not on the table in any trade talks – and that workers’ rights, food hygiene standards and environmental protections will not be relaxed.

The prime minister is set to announce that he has ordered his crack team of negotiators to pursue free trade agreements with the likes of the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand at the same time as going back and forth with Brussels.

Mr Johnson is expected to go so far as to name areas in the UK that would benefit from increased trans-Atlantic relations, with Liverpool and Glasgow said to be on the list.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed on Sunday he will travel to Japan and Australia next week to work on agreeing trade deals and explore "global" opportunities for Britain after Brexit.

Michel Barnier will lead trade talks for the EU, having fronted the withdrawal negotiations. Credit: PA

Mr Raab told Sky News that Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, was "wrong" to suggest that there would be border checks if the UK diverges from Brussels' rules.

The Secretary of State said talk of checks was"directly in conflict" with both the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration agreed in October.

Mr Raab, asked if Mr Barnier was wrong, said: "Yes. He is wrong. If the EU lives up to its commitment on its side, both in the Withdrawal Agreement and also the Political Declaration."

He added: "We expect those assurances and agreements to be kept to. That's why we've done this deal - it is a package."