Friday 11 December 2020 10:11 am

No-deal Brexit likeliest outcome, Ursula von der Leyen tells EU leaders

A no-deal Brexit is now likelier than the UK leaving the transition period with a trade deal, Ursula von der Leyen has told EU leaders.

Speaking on the second day of a two-day summit in Brussels, the European Commission president refused to put a percentage on the chances of agreement but told EU leaders there was a “higher probability for no deal than deal”.

Von der Leyen yesterday agreed a final deadline of Sunday to reach an agreement with the UK, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday flew to Brussels in a bid to thrash out an eleventh-hour trade deal. 

Johnson informed his Cabinet yesterday that the government now needed to prepare for a no-deal exit given the terms on offer from Brussels.

In a recorded statement released on Twitter, Johnson said: “There is now a strong possibility, 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.

“That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. There are plenty of ways, as I’ve said, that we can turn that to the advantage of both sides. There are plenty of opportunities in the UK.”

The PM told broadcasters he was willing to travel to Paris, Berlin and Brussels again to secure an agreement with the EU, but that he would not accept the current offer.

The key stumbling blocks in negotiations remain the sticking points of fisheries, so-called level playing field arrangements for businesses, and the overall governance of the deal.

 Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, and British envoy David Frost have been wrangling over how much access EU member states will retain over the UK’s fishing waters next year.

It is understood that the UK only wants the EU to keep about 20 per cent of the fish it was allocated pre-Brexit, while the EU wants closer to 80 per cent.

Johnson has warned that the current deal being proposed by the EU would force the UK to follow in the shadow of Brussels, laying the groundwork for Britain to leave the bloc on 31 December without a deal.

The UK will automatically leave the single market and customs union on 1 January if the two sides fail to reach an agreement.

The EU summit will continue into today, while EU and UK negotiators will continue to talk until Sunday.