Boris Johnson set for EU clash as Number 10 casts doubt on Brexit deal
The UK and EU are on a fresh collision course after Number 10 cast doubt on the Brexit deal struck by Boris Johnson last year.
Downing Street sources suggested the contents of the "political declaration" agreed by the Prime Minister alongside the Brexit withdrawal agreement had been trumped by the Tories' general election victory.
However, Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, has insisted both elements of the deal - which Mr Johnston signed - must be implemented "to the letter".
The row comes as the Government prepares to publish what it wants from the trade negotiations with Brussels, which are due to begin next Monday.
Number 10 has already made clear that it will not agree to EU demands that the UK continues to align itself with Brussels rules and regulations in return for a Canada-style free trade deal.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "The political declaration was agreed alongside the withdrawal agreement and sets out aspirations and parameters for the upcoming negotiations on the future relationship.
"The political declaration is clear that this will be based on a free trade agreement."
A Number 10 source claimed that the EU had already ditched two elements of the political declaration in its own negotiating mandate, which was published on Tuesday.
The source added: "I would point you to the fact that the Prime Minister is working to a mandate that is derived from his manifesto and which set out very very clearly what he would be seeking in the negotiations, and also set out what would not be acceptable to the United KIngdom.
"Whatever happens at the end of this year, the United Kingdom will be regaining in full its political and economic independence."
Those comments are likely to be greeted with dismay in Brussels, where Mr Barnier said: "We see ministerial declarations coming out of the UK and we see a distancing in what is being said.
"Moving back from what was said in the political declarations and the withdrawal agreement, where promises were made, promises to co-operate with us to make sure there is no form of unfair competition and our concern is that the text in the political declaration needs to be properly respected and implemented to the letter in a legal framework."
He added: "The UK says it wants Canada, but the problem with that is that the UK is not Canada.
"We are ready to offer to the UK super-preferential access to our markets - a level of access that would be unprecedented for a third country.
"Is this something we can do without firm guarantees that the UK will respect the level playing field and avoid unfair competitive advantages? The answer, I’m afraid, is simple. We cannot.
"We want competition in the future but it must be fair - fair and free."