Michael Gove took to the dispatch box this afternoon to declare that the UK is now intensively preparing for no comprehensive free trade agreement to be reached with the EU. If the EU wants a deal, they will have to shift position and come and talk to the United Kingdom.
“We had hoped to conclude a Canada style free trade agreement before the transition period ends on 31 December this year, but as things stand that will not now happen.”
Gove set out the timeline of the last weeks and months, explaining that following Ursula von der Leyen’s agreement with the Prime Minister on 3rd October to intensify talks, the EU did not deliver on its promise.
“We made clear that we were willing to talk every day but I have to report to the House that this intensification was not forthcoming. The EU was only willing to conduct negotiations on fewer than half the days available, and would not engage on all of the outstanding issues.
Moreover the EU refused to discuss legal texts in any area, as it has done since the summer. Indeed, it’s almost incredible to our negotiators that we have reached this point in the negotiations without any common legal texts of any kind.”
It is clearly on the EU to now move, as the UK will not countenance being trapped in its regulatory orbit. As Gove went on to say, he knows no FTA will lead to some turbulence, “but we have not come so far to falter now when we are so close to reclaiming our sovereignty.”
Interestingly, in a later answer to Hilary Benn, Gove sounded cautiously optimistic that the EU has begun to shift. Shortly before Gove’s statement, Barnier tweeted that he “the EU remains available to intensify talks in London this week, on all subjects, and based on legal texts”, specifically addressing the UK’s problems with how the EU has acted. Gove noted that “seems as if there has been” movement today, yet with a caveat: “What we can’t have from the EU is the illusion of engagement without the reality of compromise.”
Is this strong stance from the UK now yielding results?