Sunday, December 5

Gove calls out EU over Brexit deal



Michael Gove today told Michel Barnier ‘the ball is in your court’ if the European Union wants trade talks with the UK to resume as he said the bloc had given Britain ‘no choice’ but to step up its preparations for a no deal split.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office said Brussels had shown in recent weeks it was ‘not serious’ about striking a deal because it had failed to compromise on key issues.

He said he still hoped a deal could be done in the coming weeks but stressed that for the UK to consider going back to the negotiating table the EU will have to drastically overhaul its approach.

He borrowed a term from Star Trek as he said the EU was trying to ‘keep us in their tractor beam’ and suggested Brussels had broken its word by failing to agree to a Canada-style free trade agreement.

His intervention came after Boris Johnson warned businesses to prepare for leaving the bloc without a trade deal when the standstill post-Brexit transition period ends in December after EU leaders refused to bow to his negotiating deadline.

Mr Johnson had set a European Council meeting last Thursday as the deadline for agreeing the broad outline of a trade agreement.

But the two sides remain deadlocked in a number of crunch areas, including on post-Brexit fishing rights with French President Emmanuel Macron adamant he will not drop his hardline stance on keeping current levels of access to British waters.

The summit saw EU leaders agree to talks continuing but they gave no ground and said it was for the UK to make the next move, prompting a furious response from Mr Johnson who said Britain would now step up its preparations for a no deal divorce.

The UK has made clear it is willing to restart trade discussions but only if the EU completely changes its negotiating stance, with the two sides now locked in a high stakes game of brinkmanship.

Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, had been due to come to London next week but those talks have now been cancelled.

Mr Gove told Sky News: ‘Well, the ball is in his court. We have made clear that we need to see a change in approach from the European Union.

‘I know that he will be calling David Frost over the course of the next few days. Let’s see if the European Union appreciate the importance of reaching a deal and the importance of moving ground.’