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Hard Brexit

Boris Johnson warns EU that he'll slam the door unless Europe shapes up

Boris Johnson on Friday kept the door open to more Brexit talks but insisted Britain was ready to slam it shut unless the EU offers "fundamental change".
Boris Johnson on Friday kept the door open to more Brexit talks but insisted Britain was ready to slam it shut unless the EU offers "fundamental change". UK PARLIAMENT/AFP
Text by: Jan van der Made with RFI
3 min

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has left the door open to more Brexit talks but insists Britain is ready to slam it shut unless the EU offers "fundamental change" in its negotiation tactics, as the clock ticks down to a potentially messy divorce. 

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Johnson was responding after the European Union on Thursday demanded he give ground on key stumbling blocks.

The summit outcome appeared to rule out a comprehensive, Canada-style free trade agreement between the EU and Britain, Johnson said, accusing the 27-nation bloc of failing "to negotiate seriously" in recent months.

"They want the continued ability to control our legislative freedom, our fisheries, in a way that is obviously unacceptable to an independent country," he said in a broadcast interview.

More talks?

But French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday the EU and "in particular" the UK would need to make more effort if they were to agree a post-Brexit trade deal.

"It's the United Kingdom that wanted to leave the European Union and which needs a deal more than we do," he told reporters, after an EU leaders' summit.

And EU chief Ursula von der Leyen on Friday said European negotiators will be in London next week to pursue post-Brexit talks, despite a threat by Britain to abandon negotiations.

"As planned, our negotiation team will go to London next week to intensify these negotiations," von der Leyen said in a tweet.

A European source said the UK had agreed to pursue talks, but this was not confirmed by Britain.

Johnson has said that "unless there is some fundamental change of approach" from the EU, Britain's favoured approach for an all-encompassing deal was off the table.

"And so with high hearts and complete confidence we will prepare to embrace the alternative," Johnson said.

He said Britain should "get ready" to operate on stripped-down World Trade Organisation rules from January akin to Australia's relationship with the EU.

"And we can do it, because we always knew that there would be change on January 1, whatever type of relationship we had," he said, pointing to sector-by-sector arrangements in areas such as social security, aviation and nuclear cooperation.

"And we will prosper mightily as an independent free-trading nation, controlling our own borders, our fisheries, and setting our own laws."

Pound down, stocks up

The British pound slid below $1.29 in response to Johnson's comments but pushed the London stock market up 1.3 percent, as the weak pound lifted multinational earning in dollars.

Johnson had set the EU summit as a deadline for a deal, but is under pressure after fresh warnings that British companies are nowhere near ready for the consequences of a cliff-edge divorce when the post-Brexit transition period ends on December 31.

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