Downing Street ‘admits there is just a 30 PER CENT chance of agreeing a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU by the end of the year’ as haulage bosses demand an ‘urgent meeting’ with ministers over ‘significant gaps’ in UK border plans
- Senior No10 figures reported to put chance of deal between 30 and 40 per cent
- Trade deal talks with the EU remain deadlocked after months of discussions
- Came as eight logistics firms warned UK faces ‘severe’ disruption at the border
- Companies are urging Government to step up their Brexit border preparations
Downing Street believes the UK has a one in three chance of striking a comprehensive free trade deal with the European Union by the end of the year, it was claimed today.
Talks on Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with Brussels remain in a state of deadlock, with both sides increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress.
Senior Number 10 figures currently estimate there is a 30 to 40 per cent chance of a deal being done before the end of the transition period, according to The Times.
The Prime Minister’s deputy official spokesman would not be drawn on the percentage claim but said ‘our goal remains to reach an agreement and we will continue to work hard to do that’.
However, the spokesman added: ‘But we have been clear there is lots of work still to be done. We need more realism from the EU and for them to show that they understand the fundamentals of our position as an independent country.’
It came as eight logistics firms warned that Britain could face ‘severe’ disruption to supply chains next year unless Brexit border preparations are stepped up.
Leading companies and lobby groups told how there were ‘significant gaps’ in the preparations for managing the borders from January if there no trade deal can be agreed with the bloc.
The claims were made by organisations including the Road Haulage Association in an open letter to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
Freight lorries queue to leave the Port of Dover in Kent after arriving by ferry on March 31
Freight lorries queue to leave Dover to deliver goods across the UK in lockdown on March 31
They requested a meeting about technological and infrastructure concerns, according to a copy of the letter seen by the Financial Times.
The letter said: ‘Our concern is so strong that we have collectively agreed to request an urgent roundtable meeting with yourself, the chancellor of the exchequer and secretary of state for transport [Grant Shapps].’
‘We are asking you to take seriously our concerns and listen to the detail during this roundtable so that we can collectively help government manage through this enormous challenge.’
RHA boss Richard Burnett said: ‘It is patently clear that, on the political front at least, there is a complete lack of appreciation of the enormity of, in effect, constructing a new supply chain after 50 years of completely free trade with the EU.’
It came as a new report claimed secrecy about the Government’s Brexit negotiating objectives had hindered preparations for the UK’s split from the bloc.
The efforts also took a heavy toll on the Civil Service with a high turnover among senior staff, according to the study by the National Audit Office (NAO).
It found there were more than 22,000 workers deployed across Whitehall departments on the preparations for Brexit which have cost £4.4billion.
The study aimed to examine the lessons to be learned from the Government’s attempts to ready the country for Brexit following the 2016 EU referendum result.
Lorries queue on the A20 in Kent as ferry services at Dover are hit by storms on January 14
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Christine Jardine said the NAO report was evidence the Tories had made a ‘dog’s dinner’ of Britain’s divorce from Europe.
‘How Boris Johnson ever thought he could get a deal by the end of July with the chaos behind the scenes in Whitehall is beyond me,’ Ms Jardine said.
Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said the Government had taken ‘took too long to get to grips with the challenge it was facing’ and had failed to appreciate the ‘risks of working at such a fast pace’.
‘It didn’t collect enough information about the people and money it was committing to Brexit preparations, and couldn’t assess whether it was striking the right balance between its priorities,’ she said.
‘It must not make these mistakes again when weighing up how best to allocate resources between the pandemic response, Brexit and its other priorities.’