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Boris Johnson to prioritise clean break from Brussels over EU trade deal, Number 10 confirms

2 min read

Boris Johnson will prioritise "taking back control" of the UK's laws from Brussels over agreeing a free trade deal with the EU, it has emerged.

Downing Street said removing the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice would be a "red line" in the forthcoming trade negotiations.

The comments are likely to infuriate the European Commission and dramatically increase the chances of a no-deal Brexit on 31 December.

Although the UK officially left the EU at the end of January, it is currently in a "transition period" during which it will continue to follow the majority of the bloc's rules and regulations until midnight on New Year's Eve.

Brussels officials have insisted that the UK must agree not to diverge from EU standards in order to maitain tariff and quota-free access to the bloc.

The Government, meanwhile, has insisted on a free trade agreement similar to the one struck between the EU and Canada.

Ministers will announce precisely what they want from the forthcoming negotiations on Thursday.

But the Prime Minister's spokesman said: "The UK’s primary objective in negotiations is to ensure that we restore our economic and political independence on 1 January 2021."

Asked later whether this meant that avoiding alignment with Brussels regulations and preventing any role for the European Court of Justice were greater priorities than ensuring smooth trade with the EU, a senior No 10 source said: "Yes."

The source added: “Our overriding objective in the negotiations is by 1 January to have taken back control and we won’t agree to anything that doesn’t deliver that. Which means no rule-taking from the EU and no role for the European Court of Justice.

“Our red line is we have to have taken back full control by 1 January.”

The source added: "Independence and fully taking back control is the priority. 

“We want to do that through a Canada FTA (free trade agreement) but ultimately our priority is taking back control."

Meanwhile, Downing Street also appeared to confirm that some form of checks will take place on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Although the Prime Minister's spokesman claimed the new regime would "ensure unfettered market access for goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain", he would not give the same guarantee for items travelling in the opposite direction.

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