Friday, 25 Sep 2020

Brexiteers warned they might be left ‘disappointed’ after David Frost’s trade deal remark

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Negotiations on a free trade agreement after Brexit began in March as a UK team led by Mr Frost attempted to thrash out a deal covering several issues with EU counterparts. But several rounds of talks have ended in a stalemate, with continued warnings time is running out to get a deal across the line before the end of the transition period on December 31 – a deadline Prime Minister Boris Johnson has refused to extend. The UK and EU have repeatedly blamed each other for the lack of progress made and for their reluctance to give ground on several crucial red lines, particularly around fisheries, the level playing-field and state aid.

Last month, Mr Frost warned Conservative Party MPs Britain may only win just 60 percent of its objectives in any trade deal with the EU.

He is reported to have privately made the assurance to Tory ministers after the latest week of failed negotiations.

Professor Tim Bale, Deputy Director of the UK in a Changing Europe think tank, said while Brexiteers would be disappointed in the UK having to give significant ground to the EU in trade talks, Mr Frost is only being “realistic” with his objectives prediction.

He also warned the UK walking away from the negotiating table with the EU is “not that smart a move” – and would be better served to accept 60 percent of the trade deal objectives if they are on offer.

Professor Bale told Express.co.uk: “Brexiteers might be disappointed that David Frost thinks that a lot of objectives won’t be achieved in a trade deal with the European Union, but he’s only being realistic – no one gets everything they want out of a negotiation, especially if, to use the PM’s favourite analogy, they’re wanting to have their cake and eat it.

“It would be hard to imagine that the UK can push any harder than it’s already doing.

“UK negotiators are still threatening to walk away if it doesn’t get a satisfactory deal – what’s left after that? Nuclear weapons?

“Most people would say it’s better to get 60 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing, so walking away is arguably not that smart a move.”

Wyn Grant, British political scientist and Professor of Politics at the University of Warwick, warned the pressure is now on the UK as the clock ticks down to the possibility of a no deal outcome.

He told this website: “The EU holds most of the cards so 60 percent of objectives being met in any trade deal with the EU may be a realistic assessment, although a little pessimistic.

“The EU is unlikely to be that fazed by a UK withdrawal from the talks as they would expect the UK to return once the consequences of a no deal became evident after January 1.

“It is difficult for the UK to take a harder line when it is going to look like a bluff.

“The EU market matters more to the UK than the other way round.

“Both sides would actually prefer to strike an agreement, but there is a real risk that they won’t.”

The latest round of trade talks between the UK and EU begin on Monday, with Mr Frost travelling to Brussels with an army of negotiators as time runs out to get a deal agreed.

Speaking ahead of those crunch meetings, Mr Frost said an agreement can still be reached in September, and that is what British negotiators are working towards.

But he warned anything that might threaten the UK’s sovereignty is “not up for discussion and we will not accept anything which compromises it”.

Mr Frost tweeted: “As always, we go in good faith to talk constructively about all the issues.

“Our assessment is that agreement can be reached in September and we will work to achieve this if we can.

“As we keep saying, we are not looking for a special or unique agreement.

“We want a deal with, at its core, an FTA like those the EU has agreed with other friendly countries, like Canada.

“The UK’s sovereignty, over our laws, our courts, or our fishing waters, is of course not up for discussion and we will not accept anything that compromises it – just as we aren’t looking for anything which threatens the integrity of the EU’s single market.”

It came after Mr Frost reportedly warned colleagues about the prospect of achieving all of Britain’s objectives in trade talks.

A Conservative Party insider told the Sunday Times last month: “His (Frost’s) view seems to be that we will get a deal, but he doesn’t seem to be completely thrilled with what it is likely to be.

“When people hear that we are getting 60 percent of what we want, the question on everyone’s lips is: ‘What is the 40 percent we are giving away?'”

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