‘Let go!’ UK trade adviser tears apart EU’s refusal to accept Brexit as talks at stalemate

Newsnight: EU ‘reluctant to let go’ says Hannan

Speaking on BBC Newsnight, the trade adviser to the UK and former MEP claimed the biggest issue with the stalemate reached in the Brexit negotiations is that Brussels is still reluctant to accept Britons voted to leave in 2016. He said: “On fisheries the issue is sovereignty and once that’s respected we can be flexible about numbers and quotas and timescales.

“The bigger issue is the question of whether Britain is really an independent equal partner and neighbour of the EU.

“I think this is an emotional rather than an economic question in Brussels.

“I think there’s an element in Brussels that it is affronted by the fact of the referendum and sees Brexit, as Michel Barnier says, as teaching us a lesson.”

He added: “The EU is not prepared to do the kind of basic trade deal with us that it has done with other countries and we are now doing with other countries.

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“It’s not really about state aid, which is much lower here than in Europe, or following social and environmental standards – again, our domestic standards are way, way higher than what are required as a minimum by the EU.

“I think it’s more this reluctance completely to let go.

“They still want to have some oversight on sovereignty.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that talks with the European Union on a trade deal were proving “very tricky” ahead of a crunch meeting with Brussels’ top official.

The Prime Minister said he was still hopeful about reaching a deal but it was proving “very, very difficult” to make progress.

Later this week Mr Johnson will head to Brussels for face-to-face talks with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen in an attempt to salvage a deal, with time running out before the current trading arrangements expire at the end of the month.

Boris Johnson says Brexit deal 'looking difficult'

Mr Johnson said he hoped the “power of sweet reason” would triumph but Brussels had to accept there were limits to what terms the UK would be prepared to accept.

Talks have faltered on the issues of fishing rights, the “level playing field” measures aimed at preventing the UK undercutting the EU on standards and state subsidies, and the way that any deal would be governed.

In a message to Brussels, the Prime Minister said: “Our friends have just got to understand the UK has left the EU in order to be able to exercise democratic control over the way we do things.

“There is also the issue of fisheries where we are a long way apart still.

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“But hope springs eternal, I will do my best to sort it out if we can.”

Mr Johnson’s trip to Brussels is seen as a make-or-break moment for the process after months of talks led by Lord Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that there may be a point where it is “time to draw stumps” and accept that a deal is impossible.

“There are just limits beyond which no sensible, independent government or country could go and people have got to understand that.”

He again insisted the UK will “prosper mightily” with or without a trade deal with the European Union, despite grim warnings from the budget watchdog and the governor of the Bank of England about the impact.

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