Brexit: Boris Johnson urges UK to make 'proper preparations' for no-deal

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

The prime minister has urged the British public and businesses to make "proper preparations" for an Australian-style deal with the European Union - meaning no post-Brexit trade deal.

Boris Johnson said there was now a "strong possibility that we will have a solution that's much more like an Australian relationship with the EU than a Canadian relationship with the EU".

Which, Mr Johnson added, was not "a bad thing" and could be "to the advantage of both sides".

The two sides have given themselves until Sunday to reach agreement on what are said to be "significant differences" remaining.

Speaking after updating Cabinet members on the state of play, the PM stressed negotiations are continuing, adding: "We will go the extra mile".

"I will go to Brussels, I will go to Paris, or Berlin, or wherever, to try to get this home and get a deal," Mr Johnson said.

"But there's always the possibility, the prospect, of coming out on Australian terms - which I believe are very good terms."

He urged the public and businesses to "get ready" for January 1 - regardless of the nature of what agreement, if any, is reached.

  • 'There is a strong possibility' of leaving without a deal says Boris Johnson

Brexit trade talks - the sticking points at a glance:

- Fishing rightsThe UK wants total control over its own fishing waters after the Brexit transition period ends, with a 12 mile exclusion zone around the British Isles banning all foreign vessels. The EU wants the UK to stick to the Common Fisheries Policy, an EU agreement which gives member nations the rights to fish in European waters - more here.

- Level Playing Field: This is a concept all EU nations agree to, which ensures member nations cannot undercut others by setting their own rules on issues such as the environment, taxation and state aid. The EU says a zero-tariff trade deal is dependent on the UK agreeing to a level playing field. The UK disagrees, saying a fundamental aspect of Brexit is that the UK will be able to set its own rules.

- Governance of a deal: It's likely that any trade deal will eventually result in disputes. The EU wants the European Court of Justice to be the final authority in ruling over disputes. The UK says the ECJ should have no role and final decisions should be made by a bespoke arbiter.

But the statements from both sides suggested that while further discussions would be held, substantial movement on the key issues had not been made.

Mr Johnson pointed to "a couple of things, at least" as remaining differences between the two sides: "The idea of this equivalence between the UK and the EU [and] fisheries."

  • PM: 'The deal on the table at the moment is not right for the UK - I'll tell you why'

"After many years now of voting to leave the EU we wouldn’t still have control of our waters and that’s no good," the PM said.

The deadline was set to Sunday after Mr Johnson's meeting with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and both side's negotiators on Wednesday.

In a statement following three hours of dinner and discussions, a senior Number 10 source said it was “unclear” whether the differences between the two sides could be bridged.

Lord David Frost, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Michel Barnier in Brussels Credit: Etienne Ansotte/PA

But the PM's trip, which was aimed at using political impetus to unblock the barriers to a free trade deal, was not a complete waste of time - with both leaders agreeing their chief negotiators should continue talks through the week.

On Thursday, the European Commission set out contingency measures aimed at coping with the disruption if no trade deal can be agreed with the UK.

The measures would ensure basic reciprocal air and road connectivity between the EU and the UK - and allow for the possibility of reciprocal fishing access.

European Commission President von der Leyen said: "Negotiations are still ongoing.

"However, given that the end of the transition is very near, there is no guarantee that if and when an agreement is found, it can enter into force on time.

"Our responsibility is to be prepared for all eventualities, including not having a deal in place with the UK on January 1."

Failure to reach agreement would see tariffs imposed on UK exports to the EU, the country’s biggest trading partner, and could also increase bureaucracy.

Sir Keir Starmer called on Mr Johnson to "get on and deliver" on his 2019 election campaign promise of an "oven-ready deal" with Europe.

  • Sir Keir Starmer says it is 'very important' a deal is reached

"It's very important that there's a deal in terms of our trade with Europe and our relationship with Europe," the Labour leader said.

"Most people are very worried about the pandemic, about Covid, they want us to focus on that [...] get on, deliver it [a deal] and let's focus on the things that really matter to us most at the moment."

  • ITV News' Political Editor Robert Peston said it's likely no-deal will happen following the announcement from Boris Johnson earlier

Read the Prime Minister's update in full:

"I’ve just updated Cabinet on where we’ve got to with our friends and partners in the EU and they agreed very strongly with me that the deal on the table is really not at the moment right for the UK."And I’ll tell you why, there’s a couple of things at least, the most important is really in just the last couple of weeks, they’ve brought back the idea of this equivalence between the UK and the EU which basically means that whatever new laws they brought in we would have to follow or else face punishment, sanctions, tariffs or whatever.

"And it was put to me that this was kind of a bit like twins and the UK is one twin the EU is another and if the EU decides to have a haircut then the UK is going to have a haircut or else face punishment.

"Or if the EU decides to buy an expensive handbag then the UK has to buy an expensive handbag too or else face tariffs… Clearly that is not the sensible way to proceed and it’s unlike any other free trade deal.

"It’s a way of keeping the UK kind of locked in the EU’s orbit - in their regulatory orbit. Second thing, obviously is fisheries.

"After many years now of voting to leave the EU we wouldn’t still have control of our waters and that’s no good.

"And so the Cabinet agreed very strongly with it that we’re really not there yet at all.

"What I’ve said to our negotiators is that we’ve got to keep going, and we’ll go the extra mile -  and we will.

"And I will go to Brussels, I will go to Paris, I will go to Berlin, I will go to wherever to try and get this home and get a deal.

"There’s always the possibility, the prospect of coming out on Australia terms, which I believe are very good terms and we can prosper mightily in that future which is just around the corner.

"And there are all sorts of amazing opportunities for this country.

"So what I told the Cabinet this evening is to get on and make those preparations.

"We’re not stopping talks, we’ll continue to negotiate but looking at where we are I do think it’s vital that everyone now gets ready for that Australian option."

Brexit: Deal or no deal by Sunday?