Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is more optimistic than European officials about the prospect of Britain securing a post-Brexit trade agreement, but said the UK could still leave the bloc without a deal if needed.
Johnson said he was a bit more optimistic than chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier, who said this week that serious divergences between the two sides remained and that Britain needed to respect the EU’s position.
Speaking to LBC, Johnson said that if the UK and EU could not reach an agreement with the bloc, then an “Australia-style” arrangement with the bloc would be a “very good option”.
Australia does not have a comprehensive trade deal with the EU. While specific agreements are in place for certain goods, much EU-Australia trade takes place on World Trade Organisation terms.
Britain left the EU at the end of January, but remains a member in all but name thanks to a post-Brexit transition period until the end of the year.
There has thus far been little progress on negotiating a post-Brexit trade deal.
Both sides had hoped this week’s negotiations would reboot the process but again little progress was made and a one-on-one meeting between the chief negotiators was called off.
Asked if the government was being disrespectful of EU rules, Johnson replied: “No, not remotely”.
He added that, having voted to leave the bloc, it would be wrong for the country to continue to comply with EU laws or “hand over our amazing fish stocks, so we’re not going to do that.”
“We now need to make sure that we get a good deal,” he said.
“Actually… I’m a bit more optimistic than Michel is there, there is a good agreement to be reached but obviously if we can’t then we will have the very good option also of an Australian-style arrangement.”