Michael Gove has said the ball is in the EU’s court as to whether trade talks continue and that the UK is “well prepared” for a no-deal Brexit in January.
Gove, who has been until now a leading voice in the cabinet against no-deal, said today that it was the EU that “effectively ended” trade talks this week by not agreeing to “intensify” negotiations.
Boris Johnson said on Friday that he was finished negotiating with Brussels, and that the UK would leave the EU’s single market and customs union without a deal unless the bloc made key last minute concessions.
Both sides had set an end of October deadline to get the deal done in order to give businesses time to adjust to new conditions from 1 January next year.
Johnson’s comments were seen by many as a last-ditch bluff to extract concessions from the EU on fisheries arrangements – one of the largest areas of disagreement.
Gove, the minister responsible for organising no-deal preparations if a UK-EU agreement isn’t struck, told Sky News: “It was the case that we were making progress, then the EU retreated from that.
“At the EU Council last week the original commitment that was in their draft communique to ‘intensify talks’, the word ‘intensify’ was taken out.
“Over the past two weeks we haven’t seen from the EU the production of the legal texts required for there to be progress and as one of our negotiators pointed out, it was more like performance art than it was a dedicated attempt to reach a conclusion.”
Gove wrote in the Sunday Times today that a no-deal exit was “not my preferred destination”, but that “if the choice is between arrangements that tie our hands indefinitely or where we can shape our own future in our own way then that’s no choice at all”.
“Unfortunately, they want us to sign up to restrictions that would undermine the independence the British people voted for,” he wrote.
“The EU want to keep us in their tractor beam. It’s independent life, Jim, but not as we know it.”