Dominic Raab accuses the EU of ‘double standards’ and warns the UK won’t ‘haggle away’ sovereignty for a trade deal ahead of make-or-break talks – as negotiator Lord Frost vows ‘this time, we won’t blink’
- Crucial round of talks on Brexit trade deal are happening in London this week
- Dominic Raab accuses EU of ‘double standards’ over fishing and obeying rules
- UK negotiator Lord Frost warns Michel Barnier: ‘This time, we will not blink’
Dominic Raab accused the EU of ‘double standards’ today as he warned that the UK will walk away from post-Brexit trade talks rather than back down.
The Foreign Secretary said a deal was ‘there for the taking’, but insisted Brussels must recognise that discussions this week are a ‘moment of reckoning’.
He pledged that the government will not ‘haggle away’ fishing rights or agree to be bound by EU rules just to get an agreement across the line.
The tough stance came after the UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost cautioned counterpart Michel Barnier that the UK will not ‘blink’ this time, unlike when Theresa May was in No10.
In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Lord Frost said there was no prospect of forcing Britain to become a ‘client state’ of Brussels.
The comments will heighten gloom about a breakthrough, with Downing Street insiders now putting the chance of an agreement at just 30-40 per cent.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, Mr Raab said the government wanted to strike a deal with the EU, but it could not be based on ‘double standards’.
Foreign Secretary said a deal was ‘there for the taking’, but insisted Brussels must recognise that discussions this week are a ‘moment of reckoning’
The tough stance came after the UK’s chief negotiator Lord Frost (pictured left at a previous round of talks in Brussels) cautioned counterpart Michel Barnier (right) that the UK will not ‘blink’ this time, unlike when Theresa May was in No10
‘All the UK is asking for it to be treated like any other country in free trade negotiations,’ he said.
‘No other country would accept being bound by or controlled by the EU’s rules.’
Mr Raab said there were ‘really only two bones of contention left’ – on fishing rights and whether the UK had to bow to Brussels edicts.
‘We hope that the EU as a whole will really understand that this week is the moment of reckoning,’ Mr Raab said.
‘There is a deal to be done. We are only asking to be treated just as the EU would expect.
‘We can’t allow, as we leave the EU, for the EU to control our rules.’
He added: ‘The only question is why we should be treated with such double standards.’
‘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.
‘I think this week is an important moment for the EU to really effectively recognise that those two point of principles are not something we can just haggle away – they are the very reasons we are leaving the EU, but we want a positive relationship and the arm of friendship and goodwill is extended.’
Mr Barnier is due to arrive in London for the crunch round of talks on Tuesday.
The two sides have just weeks to finalise any legally binding agreement that needs to be in force by December 31 if a No Deal Brexit is to be avoided.
In the interview – his first since being appointed in January – Lord Frost said the EU needed to realise that Mr Johnson’s Government was adopting a more steely and determined approach than Mrs May’s.
He said: ‘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.
Boris Johnson, pictured on a visit to an HS2 site in Solihull on Friday, has insisted he will not compromise sovereignty to get a deal
‘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.’
To demonstrate the Government’s readiness to accept No Deal, the Prime Minister has created a No 10 Transition Hub, with officials across key departments said to be ‘working at pace’ to prepare to trade without arrangements in place.
The unit, boasting ‘handpicked’ officials from across Whitehall, will work with Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove, who has led the Government’s work on No Deal preparations since last year.
Lord Frost’s remarks drew immediate anger from allies of Mrs May.
Gavin Barwell, who was chief of staff in No10, tweeted that the peer had ‘some brass neck’.
‘Given the Withdrawal Agreement & Political Declaration David Frost negotiated last autumn were 95% the work of his predecessors – and the 5% that was new involved giving in to the EU’s key demand (for some customs processes when goods move GB to NI) – that quote’s some brass neck,’ he wrote.