'Our red lines haven't changed' Hancock warns Brussels over trade deal

‘Our red lines haven’t changed’: Matt Hancock warns Brussels that the UK is ‘prepared’ for a failure to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU THIS WEEK amid talks deadlock

  • Health Secretary suggested UK not prepared to bend to demands from the bloc 
  • Brussels is insisting on concessions on fishing rights and state aid rules
  • Talks continue in Brussels today but hopes of an agreement are decreasing

Matt Hancock sent Brussels a tough message that the UK is ready to sever ties with the EU without a trade deal today, amid warnings there may be little more than a week to come to an agreement.

The Health Secretary suggested Britain was not prepared to bend to demands from the bloc that it make concessions on fishing rights and state aid rules.

Talks between Britain and the EU continue in Brussels today but hopes of an agreement in time for the end of the transition period on December 31 are decreasing.

Britain’s chief negotiator, David Frost, said on Sunday that while there had been some progress over recent days and  the two sides had common draft treaty texts, significant elements were yet to be agreed.

Speaking to Sky News today Mr Hancock said: ‘Our red lines haven’t changed and we’re preparing for whatever the outcome is.

‘Of course our preference is to get a deal and that is open to the Europeans if they choose to make the progress that’s needed.’

The Health Secretary suggested Britain was not prepared to bend to demands from the bloc that it make concessions on fishing rights and state aid rules

The trade talks resumed this morning after there was little movement on the most contentious areas  last week when the two sides missed the latest mid-November deadline. 

The two sides remain deadlocked over two main areas: the level playing field and fisheries.

Both sides have called on each other to shift position for the breakthrough needed to secure a deal and offer businesses clarity on what happens at the beginning of next year.

British officials repeatedly say any deal must respect the country’s sovereignty but the EU says the proximity of Britain to the bloc means Brussels cannot hand it a trade deal similar to those it has agreed with countries such as Canada.

A senior EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two sides were ‘still a bit too far away to be able to feel comfortable’, repeating that Britain needed to make a choice because ‘the timetable is very tight’. 

Last night Lord Frost said: ‘We may not succeed. 

‘We are working to get a deal, but the only one that’s possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade, and our waters.’

As talks began this morning, his opposite number Michel Barnier tweeted that the EU ‘remain determined, patient, respectful’, adding: ‘We want our future co-operation to be open but fair in all areas.’

The two sides have a week to 10 days to find a way to unlock trade talks, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said this morning.  

‘We really are in the last week to 10 days of this, if there is not a major breakthrough over the next week to 10 days then I think we really are in trouble and the focus will shift to preparing for a no trade deal and all the disruption that that brings,’ Coveney told Ireland’s Newstalk radio station.

‘I think the British government understand only too well that’s required for a deal this week, the real question is whether the political appetite is there to do it. I think we will (get a deal), that’s been my prediction for a while but I won’t be shocked if it all falls apart.’

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