Boris Johnson sets deadline for trade deal with EU

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that he wants a post-Brexit trade deal agreed with the European Union (EU) by an Oct. 15 deadline, warning that a failure of that could mean London ending its EU membership with no deal.

EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is scheduled to start talks here Tuesday with David Frost, the British government’s chief Brexit negotiator.

With Brussels also saying a future deal must be drawn up by October to enable it to be ratified by the 27 EU member states, time is running out for both sides.

Britain’s national newspapers on Monday turned the “Brexit battle of words” into front page news. Both the Times and the Daily Express headlined Johnson’s message that a no-deal could be a good outcome for Britain.

“There needs to be an agreement with our European friends by the time of the European council on 15 October if it’s going to be in force by the end of the year…If we can’t agree by then, then I do not see that there will be a free trade agreement between us,” said Johnson in a Downing Street statement.

Britain would then have a trading arrangement with the EU like Australia’s, he added.

Overshadowing the eighth round of talks between both sides was the confirmation that Johnson’s government will publish Wednesday details of an amended bill that will have implications on trade and border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the neighboring Ireland.

Downing Street described the proposed amended bill as a stand-by arrangement if trade talks with the EU break down.

At a briefing for political journalists Monday, Downing Street said the move was to clarify the Brexit withdrawal agreement signed by Johnson in January.

The government claims, according to the Guardian newspaper, were that it would not amount to overriding the agreement, but new proposals would go beyond what was set out the Northern Ireland protocol.

Meanwhile, there was widespread criticism of the planned move from Dublin, the Scottish government and the main opposition Labour Party, local media reported.

Britain ended its membership of the EU on Jan. 31, but is sticking with EU’s rules under a transitional arrangement that runs out Dec. 31. If no deal is in place, Britain and the EU will return to trade under World Trade Organization rules.

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