The UK’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost has warned the EU it will “not blink” in negotiations as fears grow that a no-deal exit is on the cards.
Talks are set to resume between the UK and EU in London next week, with both sides deadlocked over several key issues.
The deadline for the deal is 31 December, however both sides have said a deal needs to be done by the end of October for it to be ratified by the European Parliament and to give businesses enough time to prepare.
Frost told the Mail On Sunday today that the UK negotiators would not budge on their demands, unlike previous teams led by Therea May.
“We came in after a government and negotiating team that had blinked and had its bluff called at critical moments and the EU had learned not to take our word seriously,” he said.
“So a lot of what we are trying to do this year is to get them to realise that we mean what we say and they should take our position seriously.”
Key sticking points in the deal are EU fishing access to UK waters and negotiations over business competition regulations known as the level playing field.
Brussels’ demands – as a part of level playing field talks – that the UK matches EU regulations on state aid has been a particular sore point for Frost.
He said the UK would not become “a client state” by allowing the EU to dictate the level of subsidies the British government can grant to domestic businesses.
The lack of movement has led many to speculate that a no-deal exit from the EU customs union and single market is the most likely option, with The Spectator reporting this week that Number 10 thinks there is now only a 30-40 per cent chance of striking a trade deal.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News today that a deal was “there for the taking”, but that the UK would not back down on the EU’s state subsidy demands.
“There is a good deal there for the EU, we’d love to do that free trade agreement and if not, we’ll fall back on Australian style rules and I think this week is an important moment for the EU to really effectively recognise that those two points of principle are not something we can just haggle away,” he said.