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The UK Is Still Calling The EU's Brexit Offer "Unacceptable" As Trade Talks Stay Deadlocked

Talks have entered the final hours as fears of a no-deal Brexit loom

4 min read

A UK government source has said the current Brexit offer from the EU is "unacceptable" as efforts to strike a free trade deal with the bloc approach a mutual deadline on Sunday.

Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are expected to speak at lunchtime today to take stock of progress on the talks, but both sides have insisted a no-deal exit remains the most likely outcome.

Negotiations had continued late into Saturday night amid continuing disagreements over so-called level playing field arrangements which regulate the level of state aid that governments can provide to businesses within their country.

The EU have argued that allowing the UK to have full control over the state aid provisions would give British businesses an unfair advantage if they continued to have access to the bloc's single market, but the UK has claimed remaining bound by EU rules would be an unacceptable loss of sovereignty.

Both sides have also suggested that other outstanding issues, including on fishing rights and the roles of European Court of Justice's role in settling UK-EU trade disputes, would need to be settled by tonight's deadline if there was any chance of a deal being struck.

But speaking on Saturday evening, a government source said: "Talks are continuing overnight, but as things stand the offer on the table from the EU remains unacceptable.

"The Prime Minister will leave no stone unturned in this process, but he is absolutely clear: any agreement must be fair and respect the fundamental position that the UK will be a sovereign nation in three weeks' time."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK team had been working "incredibly hard" over the weekend, but insisted the UK would not accept a deal which left it bound to EU rules.

Speaking to Sky's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, Mr Raab said the UK "wants to be treated like any other independent and self respecting democracy" and claimed the EU was "concerned that actually Britain might do rather well once we leave".

The senior cabinet minister also suggested he "can't close the door" on talks extending beyond tonight's deadline if talks between Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen could address the "political logjam".

"That can only happen at the political level of prime minister and Commissioner Von der Leyen," he said.

"If we're 99% there on the outstanding issues, you wouldn't want to leave any stone un-turned, but I think it's quite a high bar."

With talks going down to the wire, ministers have urged supermarkets to begin stockpiling food in the event of a no-deal exit.

According to The Sunday Times, ministers and supermarket bosses are concerned the disruption caused by a cliff-edge exit could lead to food shortages in the new year.

One senior consultant to a major supermarket told the paper: "There was a conversation a week ago when ministers said prepare for no-deal. This weekend the message is that it's no-deal.

"Supermarkets and ministers are hugely worried about panic-buying. They saw what happened over Covid when people started hoarding toilet rolls and know how quickly it can go wrong.

"That will be nothing compared to what will happen. Meat supplies will be fine and fruit comes from South America but there are likely to be shortages of vegetables for three months."

Meanwhile, ministers confirmed on Sunday that four Royal Navy patrol ships had been placed on standby to protect British fishing waters from 1 January if there is no-deal.

The 80-metre armed craft would be used to block French fishing vessels from entering the UK's coastal waters, with powers to stop and search boats they suspected were fishing illegally.

But the plans have come under criticism, including from senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, who said the deployment of the military ships would be "undignified".

"This isn't Elizabethan times anymore, this is global Britain - we need to be raising the bar much higher than this," he told the BBC's Today programme.

"Being ready for the worst-case scenario and using this final 48 hours to actually get a deal, they are two very different things."

Responding to the reports, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez said the move by Mr Johnson was "for the gallery".

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